Can Adopted Children Inherit from Biological Parents?

Can Adopted Children Inherit From Biological Parents?

Adoption can stir up many legal questions, especially when it involves inheritance. A common question that often comes up is, can adopted children inherit from biological parents?

Adopted children have no legal rights to their biological parent’s estate after an adoption is finalized unless the biological parents choose to have included the adopted child in their will. Exceptions may apply depending on each state’s probate laws.

Before we get started, it is important for us to point out that we are in no way intending to provide you legal advice and are only covering this article in general terms.

We will cover the following in this article:

  • Adoption and Rights of Inheritance
  • Contesting a Biological Parent’s Will
  • Probate Laws in Your Area

Adoption and Rights of Inheritance

Each state’s laws are different, and we are not lawyers. For probate issues in your area, we highly recommend you contact an attorney.

When an adoption takes place, all rights associated between the biological parents and child are permanently terminated.

The adopted child, in turn, does not have any legal rights to their biological parent’s estate when they die. This however can be debated, as each state’s laws are different.

The term Intestate Succession is important to understand. As FindLaw explains, when someone dies and has no valid will, their estate is passed down to heirs or certain classes of family members.

Each state has their own Intestate Succession laws and guidelines on how the property will be distributed.


Related Article: Adoption is such a long, drawn out process, and your focus will be finalizing your adoption and bringing your child home. But then what? How to Make Your Adopted Child Feel Welcome: 11 Tip Checklist is a terrific resource for helping you make that adjustment after adoption.


For example, adoption records are sealed in the state of Texas. Yet, if an adopted child finds out who their biological parents are, and if there is no preclusion in the legal paperwork stating the child may not inherit, that child will be eligible to inherit from their biological parents.

Willi Law Firm, Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorneys in the state of Texas shares a true story that is fascinating.

A wife died and did not leave a will. They had no children together and had been married for 40 years. Since the wife had no will, the courts went through the process of determining her legal heirs.

The woman had put a child up for adoption prior to marrying her husband, whom she chose to keep secret and did not share with her husband.

In short, the adopted child ended up inheriting 50% of the woman’s estate. Visit Willi Law Firm, Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorneys for the full story.

Contesting a Biological Parent’s Will

Biological parents have the right to add a child that they gave up for adoption to their will. However, an adopted child whose rights were terminated through a finalized adoption, in most states cannot contest a will.

Exceptions to the above may apply if the child was adopted by a stepparent after the death of the child’s birth parent, providing the birth parent’s rights were not terminated.

This exception is applicable in such states as Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon and Tennessee.

We cannot stress enough the importance of making sure a will is set in place so that there is no question about how to divide one’s estate. What may seem like a hassle now will save others the heartache and hassle later.

Probate Laws in Your Area

Contacting a probate attorney is your best line of defense. Each state has its own probate laws, and you will be better served by getting legal advise from an attorney who specializes in probate issues in the state in which you reside. For a probate attorney near you, visit Lawyers.FindLaw.com.

We have provided links below which you may find helpful based on each state’s probate laws.

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming

Disclaimer: Helping Grow Families has provided all above links as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.