Adoption and Inheritance Rights
According to data provided by the Adoption Network, nearly 140,000 American children are adopted each year. While adoption is common, there is often confusion over the rights adopted children. You may be wondering: Do adopted children have the same inheritance rights in California? The answer is ‘yes,’ assuming that adoption was legal. Below, our San Diego estate planning lawyer provides a more comprehensive overview of the key things to adoption and inheritance rights in California.
Adopted Children Have Full Inheritance Rights in California
The most important thing to know about adoption and inheritance rights in California is that state law treats all children the same. Once an adoption is finalized—whether a stepparent adoption, international adoption, or any other type of adoption—that child has identical rights to a biological child. Here are four specific things to know about adoption and inheritance:
- Intestate Succession Laws Treat Adopted and Biological Children the Same: When a person passes away without a will or an estate plan, California’s intestate succession laws will determine who is entitled to inheritance. Generally speaking, spouses and children are first in the line of succession. An adopted child is not disadvantaged by these laws. California law treats an adopted child exactly the same as a biological child.
- Inheritance is Not Guaranteed (for Adopted or Biological Children): It is important to emphasize that inheritance is not guaranteed for children. A parent has the right to limit a child’s inheritance or to disinherit them altogether. A parent could leave an adopted child (or a biological child) out of their will.
- The Adoption Must be ‘Legal’ to Qualify for Inheritance Rights: An adopted child only qualifies for full inheritance rights if he or she has been legally adopted for the purposes of California law. A stepchild who is “informally adopted” will not be granted inheritance rights. If someone passes away without a will in California, their stepchild has no inheritance rights unless there was a legal adoption.
- A Comprehensive Estate Plan Brings Clarity: Intestate succession is only an issue if there is no will. A comprehensive estate plan can help you and your family avoid a considerable amount of conflict and confusion over inheritance rights. Every parent should have a customized estate plan.
Of course, inheritance is just one piece of the large estate planning puzzle. It is crucial that parents have an estate planning structure in place that effectively protects themselves and their family. Other estate planning tools, such as a power of attorney and advance health directive, also provide protection. If you or your loved one is putting an estate plan together, an experienced professional can help.
Call Our California Estate Planning Attorney Today
At The Law Office of Kris Mukherji, our San Diego estate planning lawyer provides personalized, solutions-driven legal representation. If you have any questions about adoption and inheritance rights, we are here for your family. To get your strictly confidential initial consultation, please call us at (858) 442-5747 or send us a message directly online. With an office in La Jolla, we represent clients in San Diego and throughout the surrounding region.