My last blog addressed the issue of inheritance rights between adopted persons and their adoptive parents and relatives. This blog addresses the issue of inheritance rights between birth parents (and their relatives) and their birth children who were adopted by other families.
Bear in mind that these laws apply to the estates of those who die without making out a will specifying who they wish to inherit their assets.
As I wrote in the last blog, state laws do change, and I am not an attorney. Much of the facts I use here are taken from the Encyclopedia of Adoption, 2007 edition. Consult an attorney if you need answers for your personal situation.
Most of these state laws refer to birth parents as the “natural parents”. I just have to put in here that I hate this, although I’m not usually one to make a fuss over adoption terminology. I’m not an artificial mother, and I think I have a perfectly natural relationship to my children, although nature may not have given them to me. Most adoptive parents consider “birth parents” to be the preferred term.
The majority of states consider all legal relationships between the birth family and the child, including the right of inheritance, to be dissolved when a child is adopted by another family. This means that adoptees do not inherit from their birth parents/birth relatives and birth parents/birth family members do not inherit from the birth child.
Exceptions and conditions are as follows:
Alabama has no specific statute for those who die without a will.
Alaska states that the adopted relative is a stranger to the birth relative for all purposes including inheritance, UNLESS the adoption decree specifically provides for continuation of inheritance rights.
Maine similarly specifies that the adopted person retains the right to inherit from the biological parents if the adoption decree so provides. It does not state that this relationship is reciprocal so that a birthparent can inherit from a birth child.
In Louisiana the adopted person still has the right of inheritance from the birth relatives. It does not say that this needs to be specified in the adoption decree. The law specifically states that the birth relatives do not have the right to inherit from the adopted person.
In Rhode Island, all legal rights and obligations between child and birth family cease upon adoption EXCEPT that adoption “will not deprive an adopted child of the right to inherit from and through his natural parents as provided by S 33 1-8”.
Texas law also says that the natural parents shall not inherit from or through the child, but the child shall inherit from and through its natural parents.
Wyoming law states that, for inheritance purposes only, an adoptee is the child of both the natural parents and the adopting parents.
In Florida, the adoption decree terminates all legal relationships regarding birth family, “except that the right of inheritance shall be as provided in the Florida Probate Code”.
Maryland says “the Estates and Trusts Article shall govern all rights of inheritance between the adopted person and the natural relatives”.
In Colorado, a birth child may inherit from a natural parent, and vice versa, if there is no surviving heir and if the prospective inheritor files an inheritance claim with the court within 90 days of the birth relative’s death.
Illinois law states that the natural parent and relatives shall take from the adopted person’s estate any property that the adoptee was given by or inherited from his birth relatives. For other property, “an adopting parent and relatives of the adoptive parent shall inherit property from an adopted child to the exclusion of the natural parent”.
Pennsylvania states that the adopted child shall not be considered as continuing to be the child of the birth parents, except in distribution of the estate of a natural kin, other than the birth parent, who has maintained a family relationship with the adopted person. I think this law envisions the situation of a couple of grandparents I know who maintained a relationship with their grandchild even after their son abandoned the family and the child was adopted by the mother’s second husband.
Please see this related blog at our sister site, adoption.com.