Adding Adopted Children to Your Estate Planning

Adopting Children and Adding Them To An Estate Plan

The model of traditional families doesn’t apply to every household in America. In fact, many families have adopted children who are not biological, whether that be step children, from foster care, or an adoption agency. While parents who adopt children may love them just as if they were theirs genetically, they still have to add them to their estate plan if they want them to have a share of their legacy after passing on. That is why it is so important for parents who have adopted to talk with their estate planning lawyer for information on how to update their documents accordingly.

They say that an estate plan should be changed as life circumstances arise over the years, and adopting is certainly one of those events that require revisiting your original plans. If you want to pass on a portion of your estate to an adopted child or stepchild, then it is essential that you follow the steps to do so with the help from your lawyer.

Considerations For Adopted Children

The process of officially adopting a child does make them equal to biological children in the eyes of the law. So, if a parent passes away and an adopted child is in the trust, will, and other estate documents, then they will have the same grounds in court as would the other children. A lawyer can talk with adoptive parents about how to update their current estate plan to reflect their future wishes for adopted children.

Adoptive parents can add adopted children to an estate plan, but must do so in a way to where it will withstand in court. A parent who passes away before they have established an estate plan, may have their assets handled and distributed based on state laws by the court. 

The Rights of Stepchildren

Compared to adopted children, stepchildren do not have the same rights to a non-biological parent’s assets (that is, unless stepchildren have been officially adopted). A parent who has stepchildren and wants them to receive an inheritance must also add provisions to an estate plan. However, it is worth noting that stepchildren don’t have to be legally adopted to be listed in an estate planning document, such as a will or trust.

As you can probably imagine, the laws regarding adopted children and stepchildren within estate planning can get confusing. Parents who want to feel reassured that they are taking the right steps to give the children they love a portion of their legacy after passing away, must speak with their lawyer for guidance. 

Whether or Not To Adopt Stepchildren

The decision to adopt stepchildren can only be made on a personal and individual level. This isn’t a choice that a lawyer can make for another person. What is crucial is that parents understand their options and what they need to do to ensure their loved ones are covered in the event of their passing. If you do decide to legally adopt your stepchildren, then they will be viewed as equal to biological children in regards to assets.

Before finalizing an adoption of a stepchild, your lawyer, can let you know whether there are consequences for such an action. For instance, in some cases an adopted stepchild may become ineligible for receiving an inheritance from the other side of their family due to severing legal ties. Your lawyer can inform you whether this decision would be in the best interest of your stepchild’s future.