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Who Counts as My Child in Illinois Inheritance Law?

 Posted on November 18, 2021 in Estate Planning Blog

lombard estate plannig lawyerChildren are often the people those making an estate plan are most concerned with protecting. Before you begin working on an estate plan, it is important to understand who would or would not be counted as your child. Under intestacy law, the definition of a child is fairly rigid and cannot be altered. Modern family dynamics can be complicated, and it is quite common for children to be raised by someone other than their biological mother and father. The legal definition of a child may not encompass everyone who you consider to be your son or daughter. 

The language used in your estate planning documents is very important and cannot be left ambiguous. If your family situation is complex and you are not sure whether an individual is legally your child for inheritance purposes, it is best to consult with a qualified estate planning attorney. 

Who Is Considered One of My Children For Estate and Inheritance Purposes?

You probably have a fairly clear-cut idea in your head of who you consider yourself a parent to. Whether you belong to a large blended family or a small nuclear family, you know who you want to be counted as your child for inheritance purposes. If your idea of who your children are does not match the legal definition, you will need to use language in your estate planning documents to specify how you define “child.” 

In your will or trust, you can define “children” to include more or less whoever you please. If you practically raised your younger cousin, for example, and want her to be treated the same as your natural children, you could specifically state this in your estate planning instruments. Otherwise, Illinois intestacy law provides that your children include: 

  • Biological children - Your biological children will inherit under intestacy. If you are the father and were not married to the mother when your children were born, paternity can be established by voluntary acknowledgment or court order. An order can be issued after your death if need be. Biological children are only excluded if they were adopted by someone else. 

  • Adopted children - They have the same rights as your biological children. 

Who Is Not Considered my Child for Inheritance Purposes?

If you want an individual to be treated the same of your children with regard to inheritance, you will need to make this very clear in your estate planning documents. According to Illinois law, children do not include: 

  • Stepchildren - Your spouse’s children do not count as your children unless you have adopted them. 

  • Foster children - Your foster children are not considered a permanent part of your family and will not inherit from you unless you specifically address their inheritance in your estate planning documents. 

Posthumous children - children born to you after your death - may or may not inherit through intestacy, depending on whether you planned for them and how soon after you pass away the child is born. It is best to speak to an attorney if this is a concern for you. You also reserve the right to explicitly disinherit anyone you please, even if they are your biological child. 

Speak With a DuPage County Estate Planning Attorney

If you are interested in creating an estate plan that protects everyone you consider your child, A. Traub & Associates are here to help. Our Wheaton estate planning lawyers are experienced in creating custom estate plans. Call 630-426-0196 for a confidential consultation. 



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