A person who was born into or legally adopted into the direct line of an individual’s descent (e.g., children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren). Such a person is also called a lineal descendant, “direct” descendant, or “offspring” descendant. A spouse, stepchild who has not been adopted by the stepparent, parent, grandparent, brother, or sister of an individual is not a descendant of that individual.
The terms “descendant” and “heir” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not synonymous.
Heirs are those individuals who, by operation of law, inherit the property of a decedent who dies without leaving a valid will. Though state laws vary, an heir will typically be a spouse, child, grandchild, or more remote descendant, or a close relative such as a sibling, niece, or nephew. This means that although descendants are typically heirs, heirs often include individuals who are not descendants.