How You Should Modify Your Estate Plan After an Adoption

A happy family, parents and a girl

When a person adopts a child, he or she should review and update an estate plan to ensure beneficiaries receive their benefits as smoothly as possible. Modifying the estate plan ensures that major life changes are reflected, the right people are included, and the parents’ wishes are carried out after they’re gone.

The Inheritance Rights of an Adopted Child

Once a child is adopted, he or she becomes the adoptive parents’ legal child and receives the right to inheritance from the parents as any biological children. The parents and grandparents should modify their estate plans because the estate needs have changed. In the plan, the adopted child is featured as part of “all my children” or under the term “issue,” unless specified otherwise. If the adoptive parent dies before drafting or modifying their estate plan, the adopted child will have the right to receive a portion of the property. However, the estate could end up in probate, causing delays and possibly reducing the amount received by beneficiaries.

Modifying an Estate Plan Following an Adoption

As the parents add the adopted child as a beneficiary, they should designate a legal guardian. This will protect the child from undergoing a custody dispute if the parents pass away.  Appointing a guardian to care for and make decisions about the minor’s life can go a long way in maintaining the child’s health and safety until he or she is no longer a minor. If a guardian is not designated by the parents, the court will step in and make that decision.

If the adopted child has special needs, the adoptive parents’ estate plan should detail how his or her care will be financed and executed following their death. They can incorporate a special needs trust into the estate plan to set aside money for the child’s care to avoid compromising the child’s right to government benefits.

If the adoptive parents have both biological and adopted children, they should modify their estate plan to divide property between them as they desire. They may choose to treat them equally or make different choices. The parents can be more specific about exactly who gets what. If the parents wish to highlight certain goals for their adopted child’s upbringing, they must ensure their estate plan is updated to reflect that.