When biological parents die without a will and they have an estate, California’s intestate succession laws go into effect. Intestate succession laws are those that kick in when someone dies without a will. While the exact laws vary from state-to-state, generally speaking when someone dies without a will, under the state’s intestate succession laws, the decedent’s estate will go to their closest living relatives, such as their spouse and children.
What if a child is adopted? Do adopted children have the same inheritance rights as a biological child? As a matter of fact, yes. When a child is adopted, whether by a stepparent or someone else, the child automatically gains the same inheritance rights as a biological child.
What you need to know about inheritance for adopted children:
- Adopted children inherit the same as biological children under intestate succession laws.
- Once the adoption is made legal, adopted children can no longer inherit from their biological parents.
- Like biological children, adult adopted children (age 18 or older), can be written out of a will or disinherited if the parent uses clear language in the will.
- Stepchildren have to be legally “adopted” by the stepparent to gain inheritance rights under the law. If a stepchild is not adopted and the stepparent dies without a will, the stepchild will not inherit anything from the stepparent, even if the stepparent raised the child as their own since birth.
Inheritance Under Intestate Succession Laws
According to childwelfare.gov: “Leaving a will is the best way to ensure that heirs or descendants may inherit from your estate. Issues of property distribution may arise when a birth parent or adoptive parent dies without making a valid will or without naming an heir to a particular property (referred to as intestacy). In these cases, State law determines who may inherit from whom. Laws in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands specify an adopted person’s right to inherit from the estate of either adoptive or birth parents.”