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adoptee rights

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Queen Bee
john a ungaro said:
What is the name of your state? Illinois What rights does an adoptee have to a birth mothers estate in the state of kansas?
None. The adoption severed all legal rights to the birth family and vice versa. Unless BM left adoptee something in her will.

john a ungaro

Junior Member
states vary

Most states have laws stating what you say. Texas and two other states recognize rights of the adoptee in like cases. Kansas and two other states do not mention one way or the other the rights of the adoptee. Are there precidents where cases in Kansas have sided with the adoptee?


Senior Member
More of OP's story, different thread:


My wife is adopted(age 53). We live in Illinois. She found her birth mother over 20 years ago. They established a long distant good relationship, visiting occasionally, exchanging gifts and phonecalls at the holidays and birthdays and her knowing our children and grandchildren as well. Her birth mother kept the birth a secret from her brother, sister-in-law and 4 nephews(the only living relatives, except for my wife). Her birth mother passed away april 8th, 2006 ( age 77) in the state of Kansas. Over the years it was implied that my wife would have some inheritance from her birth mother and would recieve a letter from her through her attorney and notification of her death. Didn't happen!! We tried to call her and the phone was disconnected. We put 2 and 2 together and checked the obituaries. We searched and found the lawyer handling her estate and quizzed him about the letter in question, still keeping the adoption and birth confidential from him and the family. He stated that there was no letter for someone using my wifes' name, but another letter was sent to a third party. Could this third party be handling a letter to be sent to my wife concerning the birth mothers' intentions, still allowing the secret to be kept from lawyer and relatives? Is there a time limit before such a letter would be sent to my wife and what legal entilements are there for my wife concernng her estate if no letter exists? Can you give us some advice?


Senior Member


Although it would seem logical that a child adopted by nonrelatives would inherit from the adoptive parents and not from birthparents (and indeed this is true in most cases), there are many ramifications of the laws regarding inheritances, and statutes vary from state to state.

Generally, an adopted child inherits from adoptive parents and may not inherit from biological parents unless specifically named in a will; however, in the states of Colorado, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and Wyoming, the adopted person's right to inherit from birthparents and birth relatives is retained. In some states (for example, Kansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma), whether or not an adopted person is excluded from inheriting from birthparents is not addressed while in many states the adopted person is specifically excluded from inheriting from birthparents.

Although an adopted person may inherit from adoptive parents, whether or not the adopted person will also inherit from adoptive grandparents is not always clear and depends on state laws.

It is best to review current state law and consult an attorney in the event of a question or a desire to provide an inheritance for an adopted-away child. (Two legalistic terms used when discussing inheritance are "adopted-away" and "adopted-in." An adopted-away child is a child who is born to a family and then leaves the birthparents because of adoption. An "adopted-in" child is a child that enters a family by adoption.)

If the child is adopted by nonrelatives, inheritance generally must come through adoptive parents; however, as recently as 1986, a challenge was made to this assumption in New York. Jessie Best wrote her will in 1973 and provided for her assets to be given to her "issue." Her daughter had given birth 21 years earlier to a son who had been adopted by nonrelatives.

The executor's of Best's will discovered the existence of the adopted child. With the permission of the birthmother, who also had a child born within wedlock, the trustees asked the adoption agency for identifying information since the adopted adult might stand to inherit a considerable sum.

The adoption agency told the adoptive parents, who disclosed the son's legal name. When the birthmother died in 1980, the trustees asked the court to determine whether the adopted child would share in the division of assets with the child born within wedlock and not adopted.

The court decided the adopted child was "issue" and could inherit; however, the court of appeals overturned this decision.

In a very unusual case, adopted adult Cathy Yvonne Stone alleged she was the birthdaughter of Hank Williams, the late singer. Stone sued to receive part of the royalties accruing to Williams' estate. Her suit was rejected at a lower court level, but, on appeal, a federal court decided she was entitled to have her case heard by a jury. In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed this decision. In addition, the Supreme Court refused to overturn an Alabama Supreme Court decision that decreed Stone was a lawful heir to the estate of Williams.

In the case of a STEPPARENT ADOPTION, the adopted child may inherit from both birthparents and the stepparent in some states, but in other states, the adopted child may only inherit from the custodial parent and stepparent. (See STEPPARENTS.) Author Anne Wiseman French wrote, "In stepparent adoption situations, many states' statutes mirror New York's law before the 1987 amendments and preserve the child's inheritance rights only from and through the biological parent having custody of the child. Other states, however . . . preserve the child's inheritance rights from both biological parents."

The intent of the donor is significant in determining whether an adopted child may inherit, and how intent is determined varies from state to state.

Anne Wiseman French, "When Blood Isn't Thicker Than Water: The Inheritance Rights of Adopted-Out Children in New York," Brooklyn Law Review, 53 (winter 1988): 1007-1049.

Joan Hollinger, ed. in chief, Adoption Law and Practice (New York: Matthew Bender, 1988).

Timothy Hughes, "Intestate Succession and Stepparent Adoptions: Should Inheritance Rights of an Adopted Child Be Determined by Blood or Law?" Wisconsin Law Review (1989): 321-351."

Also, if she did have a will, unless the will is challenged as defective, the will would determine who inherits
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john a ungaro

Junior Member
kansas statutes 59-2118

Kansas statute 59-2118 states in it's last sentence ("An adoption shall not terminate the right of the child to inherit from or through the birth parent"). Would this establish a case for the adoptee to inherit?


Senior Member
Did the party die intestate? Or was there a will?

Even in intact families, a parent is not REQUIRED to leave all their children an inheritance. THey can set out their wishes in a will. When my dad died, for example, all his assets went to my mom, as was HIS right in his will.

Your wife WOULD be in line to adopt from her REAL parents - the parents that raised her and who were her LEGAL parents..

john a ungaro

Junior Member
refer to

We have a posting under the PROBATE section of this forum titled "Kansas legal for Illinois" that details all of my wife' situation with her birth mother. Please read that, it has all the particular details of her case. Thanks!


Under the Radar Member
Perhaps you'd be so kind as to provide a link, so that posters don't have to go searching for it.


Senior Member

THat link also fails to state if the party HAD A WILL. IF they had a will, unless it was proven defective, the will controls estate distribution.

So, again, was there a will or did they die intestate? Did she have a spouse who was jt owner of many or most of their assets? Anything held as jt tenants becomes the property of the co-owner at death. So the "estate" only consists of those assets that do not pass outside probate.
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