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Adoptees and Inheritance

There are two questions that people most commonly ask in regards to adoptees and inheritance:

  • “Can an adopted child inherit from biological parents?”
  • “Can an adopted child inherit from adoptive parents?”

State adopted child inheritance law and individual situations can vary, so be sure to consult an estate lawyer if you have any questions about adopted child property rights. While the following information isn’t legal advice, it may offer you a better understanding of the inheritance rights of adopted children.

Does an Adopted Child Have Inheritance Rights from their Adoptive Parents?

Under adopted child inheritance law, adoptees have the same legal rights to their adoptive parents’ inheritance and assets as “natural”/biological children. There is no difference between a person’s biological child and adopted child when it comes to their legal ability to inherit; they’re legal equals, so you don’t have to worry about being unable to inherit from your adoptive parents.
This is true even if your adoptive parents die without making a will. You’ll still inherit from them as their child.
You’re also able to contest or challenge your adoptive parents’ wills, if you need to.

Can an Adopted Child Inherit from Biological Parents?

Sometimes. Because your biological parents’ legal parental rights to you were terminated, you have no automatic legal rights to their inheritance or assets. That legal connection is instead transferred to your adoptive parents.
However, birth parents can choose to include any biological children, including you, as a beneficiary in their will. As long as none of their other family members contest the will and your inclusion, that request is honored. Birth parents will need to be clear in their will about how to contact you, so their estate manager can get in touch with you about inheritance.
If your birth parents die without making a will, or if they don’t include you in their will, then you will not automatically inherit from them, unlike your adoptive parents.
Although you can be listed as a beneficiary in your biological parents’ wills, you may not always be able to contest their wills, as you don’t have a legal connection to them (unlike your adoptive parents). But this all simply depends on your individual situation and your personal relationship with your birth parents, so consult your attorney if you think you need to contest a birth parent’s will.

How to Best Protect the Inheritance Rights of Adopted Child

If your birth and/or adoptive parents are worried about your ability to inherit from them, the best thing they can do is to make a valid will with a lawyer that specifies what you’re to inherit. Keeping that will up-to-date and having it include your contact information will also be important to protect the inheritance rights of an adopted child, but it’s also good practice for anyone who wants to ensure that their loved ones are cared for after their death.
Maintaining a current and clear will is an important precaution for anyone at any stage of life, regardless of whether or not your family has been touched by adoption.
Fortunately, your ability to inherit as an adoptee isn’t as complicated as it may seem. Again, you should contact an attorney for any questions you may have about adopted child property rights.