If you write a will to include your adopted child or children, the will governs how assets will be distributed to those children upon your death. An adopted child may still be able to inherit if the parent omitted her from a will. If a parent did not write a will, that parent's assets will be distributed through the state's laws of intestate succession, which means assets are distributed to relatives according to state law.
Inheritance From Adoptive Parent
Pursuant to 20 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 2108, an adopted person is considered the legal child of her adoptive parents. In other words, an adopted child has the same legal relationship with his parents as a biological child. The adopted child is not longer considered the child of his natural parents and cannot inherit from them. An adoption requires the adopted person to cut legal ties with her natural parents and assume a legal relationship with her adoptive parents.
Adopted Person's Inheritance From Natural Kin
Under 20 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 2108, an adopted person can still inherit from natural family members – other than natural parents, with whom they no longer have a legal parental relationship – who have maintained a familial relationship with the adopted person. For example, if the adopted person has maintained a family relationship with her natural aunt and the aunt dies without a will, the adopted person would still be considered the issue of her natural parents for purposes of distributing her aunt's assets through intestate succession.
Intestate Succession Basics
When a person dies without a will, state law determines how the person's assets will be distributed. If the decedent has adopted children, those children will inherit equally with the decedent's biological children. Under 20 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 2103, if a person dies without a will, her entire estate will go to his surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, the entire estate will pass to his children. Another question is how an adopted person will inherit from more remote descendants, such as adoptive grandparents. In Pennsylvania, an adopted child will share in inheritance as if he were a natural child. For example, if the natural grandchildren would inherit, an adopted grandchild would inherit as well. This rule does not apply if the person was adopted when he was an adult.
Adopted Person Omitted from Will
Pursuant to 20 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 2507, if you failed to provide for an adopted child who was adopted after the will was created, and it is clear that the omission was not intentional, your adopted child will receive the share that he would have received had you died intestate and unmarried, but only the share not passing to the surviving spouse. This means an adopted person can still inherit from an adoptive parent even if she was left out of a will, unless the parent purposely left his adopted child out of the will. The law does not want to punish adopted children if her adoptive parents did not rewrite their will after the adoption occurred.