If land that was left to family members, does an adopted child have legal rights to it?

UPDATED: Sep 3, 2012

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If land that was left to family members, does an adopted child have legal rights to it?

Asked on September 3, 2012 under Estate Planning, New York


Mark Siegel / Law Office of Mark A. Siegel

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You did not state whether the deceased had a valid will at the time of death.

Under NY law, when a person dies without a will, distribution of their property (known as intestate succession) is governed by § 4-1.1 of the NY Estates Powers & Trusts Law, and distributees under this law include the children of the decedent.

The NY Domestic Relations Law provides that: "The adoptive parents or parent and the adoptive child shall sustain toward each other the legal relation of parent and child and shall have all the rights and be subject to all the duties of that relation including the rights of inheritance from and through each other..."

So if there is no will and the child was legally adopted, then the child inherits under the intestate succession law, with the the same rights to the property of the deceased, as that of any other child who survived the deceased.

However, if the deceased had a valid will at the time of death, the will may provide that the property is to be left to all, some or none of the children, whether adopted or biological. You may want to check with the clerk of the Surrogate's Court in the county where the deceased resided at the time of death, to see if a will has been filed with court.

Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The answer to this question depends on circumstances.  When a child is adopted, he or she becomes a member of the family under the law and is treated like a biological child.  So, if this land was left in a will to family members as "family members" (not by name), the adopted child would participate in the inheritance.  Of course, if the will listed people by name, the land would go to only those people.  If the owner died without a will and the law says it goes to "children," the adopted child would also participate.

In Florida, minor children have certain rights to inherit homestead property under the state constitution.  This would include an adopted child.

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