I was adopted.
I’ve just heard of the death of my biological mother.
Can I make a claim on her estate?
My ex-husband suggests I might under something he calls the 1975 Act. I’ve seen your other writing on blended families.
How do adoption blended families and inheritance mix?
I hope yours was as mine.
My childhood was an experience of beauty, the kind of which books are written.
I trust yours was like mine, a childhood of pleasure.
When your correspondence clinked into our mailbox, Alice my assistant muttered something of a profoundness that was done a disservice because she whispered rather than trumpet her sentiment.
She observed the reason you were adopted was that your birth parents realised by a conspiracy of circumstances that they were unable to provide you with a home of which you were, and indeed every child is, worthy.
But, all was well that ended well. You were adopted. Your adoptive family gave you a home. Beyond a love-filled home, it’s debatable if a child needs much else.
She paused, then following several seconds’ reflection, without further elucidation, eschewing perambulation and avoiding circulation, she snorted: ‘Double dipping!’ Her final utterance on the matter was: ‘Even I know the answer to that question, and it comprises one word.’
We’ll return to Alice, for now let’s look at adoption blended families and inheritance.
Inheritance Disputes in Blended Families – The 1975 Act
The grounds on which you might have been able to make a claim are like a reed, slender. I infer from your allusion to an ex-spouse that like me, your eighteenth birthday is in the rear-view mirror. As you have attained the age of majority, we come to the fact and the reality of the 1975 Act. The Inheritance Act 1975 has been subject to much mythmaking and mischievous comment. Nonetheless, many practitioners, of which I am a number, hold this to be a fundamental principle: a person in death may only be expected to provide financially for those for whom they provided in life.
Adoption Blended Families and Inheritance – Like Baseball
Adult children generally face an uphill task in bringing a successful claim. You’re an adult – strike one.
In your biological mother’s lifetime, she made no financial provision for you, therefore I fail to see how her estate could reasonably be asked to support you financially. No provision in life – strike two.
You were adopted, therefore, the woman who gave birth to you, from the moment the adoption was finalised, was by inheritance rules, custom and practice, no more closely related to you than I am. In almost all respects, particularly in matters of succession and inheritance, you would be treated as if your adoptive parents gave birth to you.
The ruptured relationship – strike three.
Like in the rules of baseball, three strikes and you are out.
Solutions to Avoid Inheritance Disputes – Just Like They Birthed You
To a point, the term ‘blended families’ although a term of art, has no meaning in succession and inheritance planning. Which is just as well as in inheritance and succession law there is no difference between adoptive parents on the one hand and birth parents on the other. To the extent a child has any inheritance rights, they are the same for both birth and adoptive children.
Of course, by the principle of testamentary freedom, birth parents are free to make gifts to whomever they please, and this would include children who had been adopted into another family.
Remember Alice’s less than charitable response to the query? After she snorted ‘Double-dipping’, she further expanded that you would ordinarily be eligible to inherit from your adoptive parents’ estates.
She held your question was more in hope than in expectation. In short, you couldn’t have two families. She paraphrased your question thus: ‘can an adopted child inherit from biological parents in the UK’?.
To your question the one-word answer is: ‘No.’
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