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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Monday, December 9, 2019

I’m Adopted: From Whom Do I Inherit?

When someone passes away without a will, the state will distribute that individual’s assets in a specific order, with property first going to any children equally. But what about children who are adopted? If a child is adopted should he or she inherit from the biological parents or the adoptive parents? Do adopted individuals get to reap the benefits of two sets of parents? As nice as that might be, the answer is no. Here is what every adopted child should know about adoption and inheritance rights in California.

Luckily, the rights of adopted children in California are pretty easily understood. Adopted children are entitled to the same rights as biological children when it comes to inheritance. However, as a general rule, assuming that the adoption has been carried out legally, adopted children are no longer entitled to inherit from their biological parents. Instead, they are free to inherit from their adoptive parents or from someone else through their adoptive parents (e.g. an adoptive grandparent).

Since adopted children are treated as biological children when dealing with their inheritance rights, when they pass, their descendants are entitled to inherit from the parent’s legally adoptive parents but not their parent’s biological parents. In essence, the children of adopted children treat their adoptive grandparents and relatives as biological when it comes to inheritance; They have nothing to do with their parent’s true biological parents.

Japanese Adoption Practice

The California Court of Appeals for the 1st District heard the case of Estate of Fusae Obata. This case examined whether or not California would legally recognize a Japanese adult adoption practice called Yoshi-engumi regarding state inheritance laws.

These adult adoptions are not uncommon in Japan. They are different from American adoptions, which tend to favor minor children, in that they are motivated by a desire to extend the family support system and to allow for the continuation of a house that would otherwise die out without any children.

Estate of Fusae Obata

In Estate of Fusae Obata, the court decided whether the descendants of a Japanese man who had been adopted in adulthood should lose their right to inherit from the biological parents of that same man.

California state applies the law of the jurisdiction in which the person is adopted. The adoption is considered legal if it was considered legal in that jurisdiction. If it is legal there, California will consider it legal as well. For purposes of determining heirs, California also looks to the jurisdiction in which the individual dies.

In this case, the Court looked at the jurisdiction in which the adoption took place and found that under that Japanese law, “the adopted person is considered a biological child for all purposes.” Subsequently, the Court found that the descendants of the Japanese man who was adopted were unable to inherit from his biological parents since his adoption was legal.

Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning, Inc. Helps Those in California Who Are Dealing with the Probate Process

Though not always straightforward, once the probate process is completed and understood, it can help to ease any tension, fears and uncertainty often associated with it. The relevant laws serve to protect the estate and everyone involved. Sometimes the most important thing that you can do is simply to remain patient – and call an experienced attorney.

At Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning, Inc., we understand the importance of estate planning. We also understand the frustration surrounding the probate process and are here to help you and your family to fight for what you deserve. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!


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