Adopted Children

The main probate issue that arises when a child is adopted, is whether the adopted child will be able to receive a share from their biological parent’s estates in addition to their adopted parents’ estates. Most states do not allow adopted children to inherit by descent from both biological and adoptive parents, but instead cut the adopted child off from the ability to receive a share from their biological parents’ intestate estate.

Of course, there is a logical exception to this general provision, called “family realignment adoption.” Family realignment adoption takes place when a biological parent remarries and the step parent adopts the spouses biological child(ren). In this case the adoption by the step parent does not affect the adopted child’s ability to receive as an heir from their biological parents’ estates.

In some states family realignment adoption still cuts adopted children off from the ability to receive either directly from their biological parent or through a biological parent. For instance, a 1988 Maryland case called Hall v. Vallandingham involved a family wherein a husband and wife had four children. The father died and the mother remarried. The new husband adopted the four children. Twenty-five years after the children had been adopted, the deceased father’s brother passed away childless, unmarried, and intestate. The sole heirs apparent were his four nieces and nephews who had been adopted by the new husband. The Maryland court held that the children were barred from inheriting from their uncle because adoption by the new father not only eliminated the adopted children’s right to inherit from the biological father, but also eliminated the right to inherit through the biological father’s line.


Image by:  Mr. T. in D.C.