March 17th, 2008
Posted By:
Categories: Legal Issues

Not too many people like to spend an awful lot of time about thinking about what happens to their possessions should they pass, parents of all types should put some time and effort into making sure their wills are always up-to-date. Right now, of course, I’m going to talk about birth parents. Even more specifically, I’m talking to birth parents who want to make sure that their relinquished children inherit something upon their death.

The laws vary from state to state and that is why it is important for each first parent to know the laws that govern their own state. Here’s an example of how the topic varies and how it can be generally confusing.


Generally, an adopted child inherits from adoptive parents and may not inherit from biological parents unless specifically named in a will; however, in the states of Colorado, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and Wyoming, the adopted person’s right to inherit from birthparents and birth relatives is retained. In some states (for example, Kansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma), whether or not an adopted person is excluded from inheriting from birthparents is not addressed while in many states the adopted person is specifically excluded from inheriting from birthparents.

I know. I am pretty confused as well. I can’t even find the answer to some questions. Like these, for example: Which state governs the law? The state in which the adoption was finalized? The state in which the relinquished child lives upon the birth parent’s death? The state in which the birth parent lived upon death? I’m not quite sure.

Furthermore, I find it equally strange that in some states, adopted children aren’t automatically set to inherit anything from their (adoptive) grandparents. That’s just mind-boggling to me. I can understand where biological grandparents would have to specifically put the relinquished grandchildren into their will. That does, in fact, make sense to me even though some might not agree with the concept. But since adopted children are then a full part of an adoptive family, I’m just not sure why they wouldn’t be automatically set to inherit from their “own” grandparents. Anyway, I digress.

It comes down to this: if you want your relinquished child to inherit something or anything in the event of your death, you need to include him/her in your will. Likewise, if for any reason, you don’t want your relinquished child to have access to an inheritance, it would behoove you to put it in your will. If, for any reason, you change your mind about any of this over the years, immediately access your will and have it changed. Don’t go about with the attitude of “I’m too young” to consider issues like these. Sadly, you’re never too young to die. These issues should be handled immediately, if not yesterday.

For birth parents who are married to a non-birth parent, be sure to discuss these things prior to changing the will. Having a fully informed spouse will help keep everyone on the same page. No one needs to create a wave of drama after they die.

Tomorrow I will talk about why I have included my placed daughter in my will and have named her as a beneficiary on all of my life insurance policies. The choice is personal and tomorrow I will talk about why I have done things the way that I have.

For more information, read this page. For more on legal issues, read these posts.

Photo Credit.

3 Responses to “Your Relinquished Child’s Inheritance”

  1. loveajax says:

    Jenna, I am so glad you posted this.

    I was actually just going to start a thread on this out of curiosity.

    I made sure my parents contacted their estate planner to make sure that DD would inherit from them as their bio gchildren (not to be greedy, but I know they would never want there to be a question). I guess in my state, the guy said it would be automatic.

    I was wondering when DH contacted his birth mom whether there was ever any question (maybe from his sibs?) about this. Of course, he doesn’t want or expect anything, but I was wondering whether the “assumption” would be that he did?

    I hate the non-uniformity in laws!

  2. Coley S. says:

    Good topic! I was just thinking about this after reading the article about the Jello heir!

  3. lhjh4 says:

    I plan on making a will and when I do I know that I will leave something for Supergirl. Now I know, even if I am still some what confused, to name her directly.

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