The law surrounding the inheritance rights of adopted children can seem incredibly complex and confusing with many adopted children not knowing where they stand legally when either their biological or adopted parents pass away.
Children who have been legally adopted are treated in exactly the same way as biological children for the purposes of inheritance. This means that if their adopted parent dies without a Will the adopted child would be entitled to a share of the estate in the same way that a biological child would be.
In addition, if there is a Will but the adopted child has been left out of the Will they, like a biological child, are entitled to make a claim against the estate. However, if formal adoption has not yet taken place then a child does not have the right to claim against the estate of their future adopted parents.
The general law is that a child who has been legally adopted cannot make a claim against the estate of their biological parents. Therefore, if a child is legally adopted and their biological parent dies without leaving a Will, the now adopted child will not benefit through the intestacy rules and cannot make a claim against the estate.
However, if a biological parent would like to leave a share of their estate to an adopted child the best way to do this would be to name the child specifically in a Will.
What if the biological parent dies prior to the formal adoption?
In 2014 the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act introduced new rights for adopted children when their biological parent dies before their formal adoption has been completed.
These rights mean that, if a child was adopted on or after 1 October 2014 and their biological parent died before the formal adoption process was complete, the adopted child is now able to inherit an interest in their estate even though they were then adopted. For example, if the biological parent makes a provision in their Will for ‘all of their children who reach the age of 21’ this is classified as a contingent interest and the adopted child would now be entitled to keep their share of the estate.
For advice on inheritance rights for adopted children or estate planning, please contact Helen Gowin in our Estate Administration & Probate team on 01260 282351.