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Palm Springs Law Blog

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

I’m Adopted: Will I Inherit From My Birth or Adoptive Parents?

When parents pass away without an estate plan, their assets will be distributed in a particular order, going to their spouse and then equally among their children. But what happens when one of their children is adopted? When a child is adopted, are they entitled to inherit from their adoptive parents, birth parents, or both? Despite otherwise wishful thinking, adopted children do not benefit from two sets of parents. Confused about who you are to inherit from? Here is what you need to know about the right to inheritance with adoption in California.

Although it may seem a bit confusing, to put it simply, when it comes to inheritance in California, legally adopted children are entitled to the same rights as those who are biological. Once a child is legally adopted, they are no longer entitled to the rights associated with their biological parents; instead, their adoptive parents are now treated as such. Adopted children can inherit not only from their adoptive parents but also through them (e.g. the adoptive mother’s father).

Due to the fact that California treats adopted children as if they were biological for the purpose of inheritance when they pass away, their children and grandchildren will be entitled to inherit through their legally adoptive grandparents (e.g. their parents’ adoptive parents). Descendants will not be allowed to inherit from a parent’s biological family if their child was legally adopted.

In other words, adopted children and their descendants will treat the adoptive parents as biological for purposes of inheritance rights. Once adopted no one is legally entitled to inherit from his or her biological family.

Japanese Adult Adoption Practices

In the case of Estate of Fusae Obata, the California Court of Appeals for the 1st District considered whether California would legally recognize Yoshi-engumi, a Japanese practice of adult adoption with concern to state inheritance laws and rights.

Yoshi-engumi is different from American adoptions, in that U.S. adoptions often favor minor children, while those in Japan often concern the idea of carrying on the family name when needed, and creating a support system for when parents age.

In this case, the Court found that the descendants of an adopted Japanese man were not legally entitled to an inheritance from their biological grandparents (i.e. their father’s parents).

The Court applied the laws of the jurisdiction in which the individual in question was adopted. If the adoption had been considered legal in that jurisdiction, then the state of California will also consider the adoption legal. California also looks at where the individual dies when determining his or her heirs.

In this case, the Court discovered that under that Japanese law, “the adopted person is considered a biological child for all purposes.” After finding this, the Court agreed that this adopted man’s descendants were not allowed to inherit from his biological parents.

Heritage Legal, PC Helps Those in California with Their Estate Planning Needs

Despite its sometimes-complex nature, the probate process can help to calm your fears and concerns, as the law serves to protect the estate and the wishes of the deceased; you just have to know how to properly create a comprehensive estate plan. That’s why consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning attorney is your best option. At Heritage Legal, PC, we understand the importance of protecting the very things that you care about. We help you to build an estate plan that meets your needs and the needs of your family. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!


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