Adopted Children and dying without a will

Private: Frequently Asked Questions/News


What do to if you have adopted children and no will?


What Happens to Your Adopted Children if You Die Without a Will?

It is important to consider your estate plan carefully when there are adopted children in your family.  As you know, adopted children have two sets of parents: biological and adoptive. Naturally, there is a legal connection between the child and both sets of parent. Does the child have a right to inherit from the adoptive parents, legal parents or both?

New Line of Succession

Adoption creates new lineage, and this is important for applying the rules of intestate (without a will) succession and will interpretation. Intestate succession generally says that adoptive children do not automatically receive property from their birth parent when there isn’t a will.

Can Adopted Persons Inherit From Their Biological Parents?

Usually, intestate succession dictates that adoptive children do not automatically receive property from their birth parents when there is not a will. However, a parent and child relationship with the birth parents can be shown in order for an adoptive child to inherit.

Various Adoption Scenarios:


A non-biological parent who adopts a step-child becomes, for all legal purposes, that person’s child. Usually the child becomes part of the adopting family (one biological and one non-biological parent) and legal relationships with the previous family are ended. Thus, the adoptive child can inherit from the adopting family, but the legal rights to property of the previous family are severed.

An exception can exist if the child’s biological parent has died, leading to the adoption, so that the birth relationship to the deceased parent may continue and the child can still inherit intestate.

Family Members

Occasionally, people will adopt family members such as cousins, nieces and nephews.  In this case, the adopted child isn’t cut off from having a legal connection with their family members for intestacy determination.

Adult Adoption

Adults can be adopted for many reasons, the most prevalent of which would be to take care of an incompetent individual. Often a step-parent will want to adopt a spouse’s child, even as they become an adult.  Keep in mind that the judge may examine the motive behind the adoption of an adult (apply extra scrutiny) to ensure the adoption is legitimate and motives are true to the purpose of adoption.

Contact Estate Planning attorney Brian C. Tanko of Tanko Law Office at (702) 367-6636 with further questions and inquiries regarding adoption and your estate plan.



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