For the purpose of inheritance, there are natural children, adopted children, and children adopted by estoppel, also called equitable adoption. What do these terms mean?
- Natural children are, of course, the children born to the parent.
- Adopted children are children that were adopted by the parent through the legal system.
- "Adoption by estoppel" sometimes called "equitable adoption" or "adoption status" means those children who were not adopted through the legal system but are nevertheless recognized by the law as the adopted children of a deceased person. This involves children who were raised by a decedent (someone other than their parents) and there must be a parent child relationship established between the person (the decedent) who raised them and the children. It is legally similar to a common law marriage.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children's Bureau put out a summary of the various state laws relating to the adoption rights of those adopted, those adopting and the birth parents that may be found here.