Intestate Inheritance Rights for Adopted Persons

Leaving a will is the best way to ensure that heirs or descendants may inherit from your estate. Issues of property distribution may arise when a birth parent or adoptive parent dies without making a valid will or without naming an heir to particular property (referred to as intestacy). In these cases, state law determines who may inherit from whom. Lows in all 50 states specify an adopted person’s right to inherit from the state of either adoptive or birth parents.

Birth Parents and Adopted Children

Generally, the court decree that finalizes the adoption ends the legal relationship between the birth parent (also referred to as the biological or natural parent in the statutes) and the adopted child. There are, however, exceptions to this policy in some states. Adoption by the spouse of a birth parent generally has no effect on the right of the adopted child to inherit from or through that birth parent. In 11 states, when a child has been adopted by a stepparent, the child may inherit from either birth parent, depending on the circumstances.

Adoptive Parents and Adopted Children

Upon the entry of the final adoption decree, the adopted child is treated by law as if he or she had been born to the adopting parents. The adopted child, therefore, gains the right to inherit from the adoptive parents and adoptive parents’ relatives. Adoptive parents and other adoptive relatives also gain the right to inherit from the adopted child.

Adopted Children Who Are Not Included in a Will

Interstate law often applies to adopted children who are not specifically named in the will of the adopted parent. Usually this occurs when they are adopted after the will was made and it was never updated or amended.

The laws in approximately 44 states address this situation. Generally, adopted individuals are included in class gifts and other terms of relationship in accordance with the rules for intestate succession. For example, if a will stipulates that all children of the deceased parent are entitled to an equal share, this adopted person is included whether or not he or she is specifically named. Also, when a parent fails to provide for any of his or her children, whether by accident or if the person was adopted after the will was made, that person shall have a share of the parent’s estate unless there is evidence that the omission was intentional or that the parent provided for the adopted person outside the will.


Source: Child Welfare:

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