Estate Planning Considerations For Adopted Children

There is no one way to build a family. Many families in South Carolina turn to alternatives like adoption for their own reasons, and we wholeheartedly support that. Our team works with these families just the same as any other and want to equip families of all forms with the necessary Estate Planning toolbox they need to achieve peace of mind.

Adoptions come with their own particular nuances in an Estate Plan. It’s important to consider the factors at play when you adopt a child to ensure your family has all the necessary documents in place.

It is important to note that a child does not have a right to inherit from their parents. Through a Will or a Living Trust, a person can leave their estate to anyone they wish. However, if a person has no Estate Planning documents, the laws of Intestate Succession provide that children of the deceased parent are entitled to inherit some or all of the estate of the deceased parent. Therefore, who is legally considered a child of the deceased parent becomes important. 

Termination of Parental Rights Terminates the Right to Inherit

First, let’s look at the legal relationship with any biological parent whose parental rights are terminated during the adoption process. When the adopting parent assumes parental rights in place of a living biological parent, the right to inherit from a parent transitions to the adopting parent.

A child is considered to be a legal heir to those who have parental rights over them. If their biological parent were to pass away then the child would be entitled to inherit some or all of the parents estate. The termination of parental rights removes this assumption.

This brings up two specific Estate Planning considerations:

  1. The adult whose parental rights were terminated must consider whether to still provide  for the child in their Estate Plan or name other beneficiaries for those assets.  In other words, nothing prevents the biological parent whose rights have been terminated from including the biological child in their estate plan.
  2. After adoption, the adopted child is now an heir of the adoptive parent. The law views adopted children as equal to biological children when the process is finalized and those rights and responsibilities pass on to the adopting parent.

When the Biological Parent has died before the Adoption 

Sometimes a biological parent has died before the adoption takes place and the death of a parent or both parents is often what brings about the adoption of a child.  In these cases, since the biological parent’s rights are not terminated, the adopted child remains the heir of the biological parent and also becomes the heir of the adoptive parent as well.

Stepchildren Who Have Not Been Adopted

Stepchildren do not have inheritance rights from stepparents, even if the stepparent is legally married to one of their biological parents. Stepparents who want to provide for their stepchildren in death must do so through their Estate Plan.At Charleston Estate Planning Law Firm, we work with families of all different shapes and sizes to ensure effective and thorough Estate Planning. Contact our team to give your family peace of mind today.

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Charleston Estate Planning Law Firm

At the Charleston Estate Planning Law Firm, we believe that estate planning is all about protecting your family and loved ones in the event of your incapacity or death.

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