January 18, 2021

How Does Stepparent Adoption Impact Inheritance?

Stepparent adoption can be one of the most exciting and stressful experiences during a parent’s lifetime. It can be easy to consider the more immediate concerns associated with adoption, such as hiring an attorney, addressing details associated with the other biological parent, filling out paperwork, attending court hearings, and hoping for a smooth process. Thinking about the newly adopted child’s inheritance rights may not seem like it should be at the top of the priority list.

Consider inheritance before adoption

Planning or modifying an estate after a stepparent adoption is best suited for an estate planning attorney. However, the newly adopted child’s inheritance rights should be discussed before drafting estate planning documents. An experienced family law attorney can gather the unique details of each stepparent adoption and provide the foundational knowledge required for families to consider when planning estates for their newly adopted child.

Termination of parental rights and inheritance

A common scenario occurs when a stepparent wishes to adopt a child of a biological whose parental rights will be terminated. In these situations, the adopted child is treated as a natural-born child of the stepparent and will inherit through the stepparent. Because the biological parent’s legal rights to the child have been terminated, the adopted child can no longer inherit through the biological parent. The loss of inheritance rights extends not only to the biological parent but to biological grandparents and other members of the biological parent’s family.

Inheritance when parental rights were not terminated

When a child is adopted by the spouse of a biological parent (such as a biological mother’s husband) and the other biological parent’s rights haven’t been terminated (often because of death), the adopted child can still inherit through both biological parents. As with all adoptions, regardless of whether rights were terminated or whether it occurred through a stepparent, legal precautions exist to protect both parents and children. With the right team of professionals, parents can allay their fears associated with adoption and implement legal strategies best suited for their families.