Heirship in Decedents’ Estates

Heirship in decedents estates is established, primarily, through an affidavit  presented when the petition for letters testamentary or letters of administration are presented, prior to the estate being opened.  The establishment of heirship is required in order to determine those individuals who are entitled to receive assets from an intestate estate, and in order to establish the individuals entitled to notice of probate proceedings, whether the decedent dies with or without a will.

In Illinois, heirship is governed by the rules of descent and distribution   (755 ILCS 5/2-1), which apply in different ways depending on whether the decedent married and/or had children.

Determination of Heirship:

The court may determine heirship in a number of ways.  First, heirship may be ascertained from an affidavit of any person stating the facts from which heirship can be ascertained.

Or, a court may determine heirship in a decedent’s estate from narrative evidence or evidence by questions and answers reduced to writing and certifed by the court determining heirship.  Usually, a witness is sworn and testimony is provided to the court in order to determine heirship.


Different rules apply in the case of illegitimate children of the decedent.