Adoption and Estate Planning: November is National Adoption Month. In this post, you will learn how Adoption affects your Estate Plan.
By now, you must be knowing that any life event calls for a change in your Estate Plan. Adoption is one such life event that needs updating your Estate Planning.
Around 135,000 children are adopted in the US each year. As blended families become common, so does adoption too when you take the concept of step-parent and step-children into consideration.
4 important facts about Adoption and how it affects your Estate Plan
1. Formally adopted children are treated the same as biological children
Laws concerning Estate Planning and Adoption may vary from state to state but generally, formally adopted children have the same rights to their adopting parents’ rights as the biological children.
These days, it is a standard practice to include a provision in the Estate Planning document that defines ‘issues’ addressed to include ‘descendants by blood’ and ‘descendants by adoption.’ This means, if a step-parent wants to disinherit their step-child, their wishes must be explicitly mentioned and necessary changes must be made in the Estate Planning documents.
2. If a child is not formally adopted, they might lose rights to inheritance.
This is a clear-cut statement: if the child to whom you wish to transfer a part of your Estate is not formally adopted, they might not be eligible to inherit your Estate. Just wishing for a step-child to inherit your Estate is not enough. You will have to explicitly mention in your Estate Planning document that you want your step-child to have the same inheritance rights as your biological children.
3. An Adopted child has no right to inherit their biological parents’ Estate
When adoption begins, the child loses their right to inherit their biological parents’ Estate. With open adoption becoming more common – that is, both sets of parents know one another and some measure of contact is maintained with the biological parent – it is important to view this aspect while taking Estate planning into consideration.
4. Second-parent adoption
It is possible to opt for second-parent adoption and bypass the termination to parental rights. This is important in the case of an unmarried couple with a child. The partner who is not a biological parent can adopt the child without terminating the parental rights of the ‘first’ parent by using a second parent adoption under that state’s law. A child adopted through a second parent adoption will be treated the same as a biological child in your Estate Planning.
While the above four facts deal with adopting parents, an adopted child must also ensure their wishes are mentioned in their Estate Plan. Also, if a step-child is not formally adopted but wishes to leave their assets to their step-siblings, this wish must be clearly mentioned in the Estate Plan.
Remember, step-relations generally do not have an automatic claim to one’s estate. Hence, it is necessary, especially for blended families, to take extra care and make sure no one is left out of inheritance. Talk to your Estate Planning attorney and clarify all the doubts you have before creating an Estate Plan that includes your formally adopted children or step-children.