Adopted Children and Ability to Inherit

Children are adopted for a variety of reasons, whether it is due to a couple’s inability to have children, a general disposition towards adopting, or by a family member when someone dies. Many people who are adopted view themselves as the children of their adopted parents, while some continue to communicate with their biological parents. What happens legally when the biological parent dies and a biological child seeks to inherit under his or her will, or the adopting parent dies without leaving a will for the adopted children?

Biological Parents

Once adopted, a child is viewed as the legitimate child of the adoptive parents and not the biological parents any longer. Unless stated in the will, the adopted child has no right to inherit from the biological parents upon their deaths. If the biological parents seek to leave their child any sort of inheritance, it would have to be expressly stated in the will. There are special circumstances, discussed below, for those children adopted by a stepparent.

Adoptive Parents

Upon adoption papers being signed, the adopted child is viewed in the eyes of the court as a legal child of the adoptive parents, which ends the relationship between the biological parents and the child. In some states, adoption decrees outline a continuation of inheritance rights for the child from the biological parents, while others allow birth parents to inherit from their biological child, even if adopted by another family, if the child dies before them. In about one third of the states, if the child is adopted by a stepparent after the parent dies, the adopted child can still inherit from their birth parent or other relative, keeping intact inheritance rights. Even if the adopted parent does have a will made prior to the adoption of the child, it is assumed that the adopted child is included in the class of gift made to children, unless specifically stated otherwise.

Concerned About Your Inheritance Rights?

Adoption changes the lives of many people, but it should not change your life again when you experience difficulties in estate planning. If you or someone you know is having the legal status as a child of their adoptive family challenged, call the experienced legal team at Lawrence Law Office today at (614) 228 – 3664 for a consultation or email us using our website or lawrence@lawrencelawoffice.com. We will help you get the results you deserve.

Estate Planning

Once your marriage is terminated, it is critical to re-evaluate any of the estate planning mechanisms that you have put in place. This would include reviewing your wills, trusts, financial powers of attorney, health care power of attorney, and living will. This will also include review of your beneficiary designations for your 401(k), IRA, life insurance policies, pensions, and annuity plans. Any transfer on death (TOD) bank accounts and payable on death (POD) accounts must also be reviewed. Simply because you have terminated your marriage does not mean these designations of your ex-spouse are void. If you do not re-evaluate these matters, your ex-spouse could potentially receive your hard earned assets upon your death.

Additionally, we suggest at a minimum that you have the following estate documents in place: a will, a living will/health care power of attorney, and a financial power of attorney. In Ohio, your spouse has certain rights and the ability to help make certain financial decisions on your behalf upon marriage. Once you are divorced, Ohio law does not have in place any other designated party that can make such decisions for you. Accordingly, it is critical that you have estate planning documents in place to identify who you would like to make decisions on your behalf.

               A review of all of your estate planning options is prudent at this time. You can avoid costly mistakes and over-sights that may have occurred, particularly related to assets that you do not routinely review.

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