ADOPTION SERIES – PART 3: HOW DOES AN ADOPTED PERSON INHERIT?
We recently have written about how adopting an adult can allow an unrelated person to share in an inheritance (unless it is done with improper motives). But how, and from whom, do adopted persons (whether they are adults or children) inherit under Florida law?
The general rule is that a legally adopted person is treated as if he were the natural child of his adoptive parent(s). If an adoptive parent dies without a will or trust, the adopted child can inherit just like a biological child would. For example, if Arthur dies leaving one adopted child, Bill, and two natural children, Cindy and Dave, Florida law provides that Bill, Cindy, and Dave would each get an equal share of Arthur’s probate estate.
A legally adopted person (again, whatever his age at adoption) can also inherit from any other blood relatives of his adoptive parent. That means that Bill would be eligible to share equally with Cindy and Dave upon the death of Arthur’s parents, siblings, and other relatives.
As you can see, the Florida legislature has done its best to give adopted children the same rights as natural children and assist with a seamless transition into their new families. However, there is a catch. With a few exceptions, adoption cuts the ties between the adoptee and their biological family so that neither can inherit from the other. So, Bill would not be an heir of his biological mother or father or any of their relatives.
It is important to remember that the rules discussed above only apply when the person who passed away did not have a valid estate plan and his property must pass according to the state’s will (intestacy). If you would like to provide for someone who has been adopted into or out of your family, you should be able to override the state’s will by making your own will or trust. To learn more about the planning options available in Florida, you are welcome to attend one of our monthly “Truth About Estate Planning” workshops.