There are unique challenges that families with adopted children face; however, most of these families do not know that estate planning is one of them. A Houston estate plan is essential for all people, but especially for families with adopted children because of the different laws they are subjected to. Texas law treats families differently, based on whether the children are legally adopted or not. Below are various estate planning and inheritance situations, all of which depend on the legal make-up of a person’s family.
Legally Adopted Children
When children have been legally adopted into the family, they have the same legal rights as biological children. This includes equal rights in estate planning situations, and biological and adopted children will receive the same inheritance and property when their parents have passed away. Therefore, legally adopted children will be treated the same if the parent has a will and trust in place. This occurs even if the adoption is finalized after the will or trust has been created.
Not Legally Adopted Children
If the child is not a legally adopted family member, they likely will not receive similar treatment—and therefore not receive the same inheritance. This situation often includes stepchildren or other children who are dependents but not adopted legally. For the children to legally inherit the assets of the estate without a special provision, the estate owner will need to adopt the child before they die. Otherwise, the owner will need to make a special provision as a part of the estate plan.
Before adopting children for the purposes of inheritance, it is also important to remember this action will sever their ties to their birth parents for estate planning purposes. Therefore, the child cannot inherit from their birth parents if they are adopted, closing that door to inheritance. The same process occurs if a person adopts their stepchild: the child can no longer inherit from their birth parent.
When a person adopts a child but is not married to their partner, inheritance may be impacted. In Texas, paternity must be established either through a paternity test (which would not be applicable in the case of adoption) or an acknowledgment of paternity. This is a critical step to ensuring any adopted child would inherit the assets and property of both parents, even if they are not married.
While the relevance of the above situations depends on an individual’s family, there is one similarity: individuals must have an estate plan in place for any of these circumstances to apply. Otherwise, a person’s family will be subjected to a long and expensive probate court process in order to receive their loved one’s possessions and assets. For those interested in starting the estate planning process and avoiding these potential issues, families should contact an experienced estate planning attorney today.
Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
If you or your loved one is interested in creating an estate plan for your family—regardless of its legal makeup—contact the Houston estate planning attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. We understand that a nuanced estate plan is essential for a family’s future security, so our attorneys will create the plan that works for you and your family. To discuss starting the estate planning process and speak to an attorney, call us today at 713-333-8900.