Monday, August 15, 2011

So you were adopted?

Question: I was adopted when I was young. My birth and/or adopted parents are millionaires, and both just died, simultaneously, without a will. I might have some other blood or adopted siblings. What do I do?

Answer: Texas law is actually very favorable to adopted children. Sec. 40 of the Texas Probate Code States in part:

§ 40. INHERITANCE BY AND FROM AN ADOPTED CHILD.  For purposes of inheritance under the laws of descent and distribution, an adopted child shall be regarded as the child of the parent or parents by adoption, such adopted child and its descendants inheriting from and through the parent or parents by adoption and their kin the same as if such child were the natural child of such parent or parents by adoption, and such parent or parents by adoption and their kin inheriting from and through such adopted child the same as if such child were the natural child of such parent or parents by adoption.  The natural parent or parents of such child and their kin shall not inherit from or through said child, but, except as provided by Section 162.507(c), Family Code, the child shall inherit from and through its natural parent or parents.

Nothing herein shall prevent any parent by adoption from
disposing of his property by will according to law.  The presence of this Section specifically relating to the rights of adopted children shall in no way diminish the rights of such children, under the laws of descent and distribution or otherwise, which they acquire by virtue of their inclusion in the definition of "child" which is contained in this Code.

Recap: If there are not any wills, an adopted child inherits from both her natural and adopted parents. The natural parents do not inherit through the child.

The only wrinkle is if the adopted person is an adult, in which case the adopted adult gives up his inheritance rights through his natural birth parents. The relevant Texas family code section states:

§ 162.507. EFFECT OF ADOPTION.  (a) The adopted adult is the son or daughter of the adoptive parents for all purposes.
(b)  The adopted adult is entitled to inherit from and through the adopted adult's adoptive parents as though the adopted adult were the biological child of the adoptive parents.
(c)  The adopted adult may not inherit from or through the adult's biological parent. A biological parent may not inherit from or through an adopted adult.

Takeaway: Adopted kids inherit from their adopted family AND their natural birth parents, assuming there is no will. Adopted adults only inherit through the adopting parents. This makes sense, from a public policy standpoint.  Don't want your kids to inherit anything? Make a will. Are you an adopted child whose parent's passed away without a will? Contact an experienced estate planning attorney before your inheritance goes to someone else. Just because you were adopted, doesn't mean your rights terminate as well.

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