In Florida and most other states, the law treats an adopted child like the natural born child of the adoptive parents. As a result, adopted children are equally entitled to benefit from an inheritance as any biological children born to the couple. In some situations, an adopted child can legally claim an inheritance from both the parents who adopted him and his birth parents.
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In most cases, a birth parent's rights must be terminated before an adoption of a child can occur. However, this general rule does not apply if a birth parent has died or waives his parental rights. When parental rights are terminated, a child is legally treated as if he had been born to the parents who adopted him. In fact, Florida issues a new birth certificate listing the adoptive parents as the child's parents. Confirming the child's change in status, the Internal Revenue Code considers an adopted child as "a child ... by blood." Florida require health insurance companies to provide insurance for the adopted child if they already offer coverage to the adoptive parents.
Florida inheritance law states that an adopted child is a descendent of his adoptive parents, effectively treating him as if he had been born to them. This enables adopted children to claim all the rights of inheritance on equal footing with the biological children of the family. Thus, a child can inherit from the parents who adopted him and the adoptive parents can inherit from the adopted child.
Will or No Will
It's not uncommon for an adopted child to be left out of the will of his adoptive parents -- this usually occurs when the will is drawn up before the adoption and the adoptive parents forget to amend it. Florida and roughly 40 other states give the adopted child equal rights of inheritance under such circumstances. So if a will gives an equal share of an estate to all of the children of the deceased, an adopted child gets an equal share as well. The same principle applies when a parent leaves no will -- the adopted child is on equal footing with the biological children of the deceased in terms of inheritance
Adoption by a stepparent makes inheritance a little more complicated. In Florida, such adoptions don't sever the relationship between the other biological parent and the child in terms of inheritance. So the adopted child can inherit from his adoptive stepparent and from both of his biological parents.
The Florida law prohibiting gays from adopting was declared unconstitutional in 2010. As a result, children adopted by gay couples are now on the same legal footing as other adopted children, with the same rights of inheritance.
References & Resources
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: Intestate Inheritance Rights for Adopted Children: Summary of State Laws
- Law Offices of William G. Morris: It's the Law: Adopted Children Are Legally the Same as Children Born to the Adopting Parent
- CBS News: S. Fla. Gay Adoption Case Finalized
- Probate Attorney Blog: Adoption Dispute Precusor for Trust Litigation re Large Inheritance
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