Intestate Inheritance Rights for Adopted Children

When you adopt a step-child, inheritance issues can get complicated. In a typical adoption, parents relinquish all rights to their child when they are adopted by another parent, and the child loses all family inheritance rights. However, when a step-parent chooses to adopt a step-child, this isn’t necessarily how it works. Normally, the best thing to do in any estate planning situation is to leave a will. Even if a biological parent leaves a will that includes his adopted child who is now a part of another family, the wishes of that decedent will probably be upheld. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in all 50 states an adoptive parent has the right to inherit from a birth parent or an adoptive parent when it is listed in a will.

However, what happens when a parent dies intestate? Does their biological child that is now adopted receive anything? Normally, when a court finalizes an adoption it ends the legal relationship between a natural parent and their offspring. The child now has a new set of legally responsible parents and he or she will be included in their inheritance in the future. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. In Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, and Maine, a person can provide that there will be a continuation of inheritance rights if it is specified in the adoption decree. Also, in Kansas, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Texas, and Wyoming an adoption makes it so that a birth parent cannot inherit from their son or daughter once he or she has been adopted. The child, however, can still inherit from the birth parent.

In Illinois birth parents can gain an adopted child’s inheritance if the child leaves them valuables as a gift or as part of a will. The birth parents are also factored into intestate laws. Certain states will allow a child to obtain from his or her birth parents’ estate if they have kept up an ongoing relationship. 14 states rules that when a step-parent adopts a child after the child’s birth parent has passed away, this does not affect the child’s inheritance from their original parents in anyway. 10 states rule that adopted step-children always have the right to inherit from both parents, even in intestate circumstances. Though the adoptive child is legally in the custody of the adopted parents, birth parents may still want to gift them part of their estate, especially if that child is the only heir.

As an adopted child, that young one also has the right to inherit from any relatives in the adoptive family, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings. Sometimes a family may have a will but never amended it after an adopted child was brought into the family. In 42 states, adopted individuals are included along with the rest of the siblings. They are allowed an equal share in the inheritance unless the will specifically names that they should not be given part of the estate. This will normally decrease the other children’s inheritance, but it is an act of fairness for the child that was left out. The only exception to this is if the courts can prove that the parents provided for the adopted child by other means outside of the will, such as with an advanced inheritance. In the end, it is very important to contact a probate attorney if you need help with a will or probate procedure after a loved one has passed on. You will probably need to talk to the courts about your situation if you are adopted to make sure that you get your just share.