Did you know that, in Florida, you can adopt someone without ever going to court and making it official?  For the finale of our Adoption Series (click to read part one, two, or three), we will highlight an unusual way that people sometimes inherit from their non-biological “parents.”

Imagine that a baby girl, Sally, is born and her natural parents are either unwilling or unable to care for her.  The parents agree to give up Sally to another more capable couple, who promise to raise her as their own.  Sally grows up as the “daughter” of the couple, whom she loves as “parents,” although they eventually tell her she is adopted.  However, after her “parents” pass away, Sally learns that she was never legally adopted by them and that, like most Floridians, they did not leave behind a valid will or trust.

Unfortunately, that means that Sally is not a legal heir to the couple and therefore would not have any right to inherit any property they left behind.  Florida’s intestacy laws (the state’s will for anyone who dies without one) only give this right to the closest blood (or legally adopted) relative(s).  However, Florida courts have stepped in to avoid this unfair application of the law in light of the relationship between, and the promises made and kept by, people like Sally and the couple who raised her.  Under very specific circumstances, such as the ones described above, our courts will recognize that a “virtual adoption” took place, and will treat the person in Sally’s shoes as if she were legally adopted, so that she may inherit from her “parents.”

To learn about your planning options to protect and provide for your loved ones (whether they are blood relatives, adopted family, or neither), you are welcome to attend one of our monthly “Truth About Estate Planning” workshops.

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