There is often much confusion about the legal rights of adopted children, including questions such as what they can potentially inherit from their biological family and what they can potentially inherit from their adoptive family? These are various questions which the Inheritance Act 1975 addresses. Confusions often exists amongst adopted children on their rights and the surrounding regulations of what they may be entitled to. The Act states that if a child is adopted prior to the death of a parent, then this child assumes the same rights to inheritance as any biological child.

Following on from the original Act, section 39 of the Adoption Act 1976 states that once legally adopted, exactly the same inheritance rules apply as do for biological children, even in the event of the adoptive parents not leaving a Will. In essence, the act prescribes that adopted children should be treated with the same equality as biological children of the decease adoptive parents.

There is an exception to the inheritance rule as applied to an adopted child and their biological parents, whereby they can still inherit from their biological parent(s) only if they passed away before they were adopted.

Under the Rules of Intestacy, it also states that if a child was orphaned following the death of their biological parents, that child would still be entitled to inherit from their parents. However, if the child was adopted and their parents later passed away, they would not be entitled to any inheritance of their biological parent’s estate.

Although, the birth parents can still choose to include any biological children as a beneficially in their will, stating the name of their children or ‘all my children’. This does not include any ‘step’, or non-biological children unless officially adopted.

However, in the UK a loophole does exist if a child isn’t actually formerly adopted into the family. The adoption process here can take up to an average of two and a half years to become legally adopted. Until this point of legal transfer, the child is treated in the eyes of the law as having the same status as a child who is fostered. This means that the child has no right to claim inheritance from their future adoptive parents, however they do have the right to claim from the estate of the biological parents up until the adoption process is finalised.

There are many cases where a child has been ‘unofficially’ adopted and have no grounds to any inheritance from their ‘adoptive’ family.

A case from 2014 highlights the importance of correct procedures and legalities.

Marley v Rawlings & Another 2014

Terry Marley moved into the Rawlings family home at the age of 15. The temporary arrangement became permanent and he became a member of their family. After years, his two brother moved out to start their own families whilst Marley stayed and looked after the Rawlings parents.

When the couple later passed away, it became apparent that they left their entire estate to Terry Marley. The two brothers not best pleased with this decision, decided to look into the possibility to gain some of the inheritance, they discovered that the Will was in fact invalid as both partners had signed each other’s Will and technically Marley hasn’t been formally adopted, which resulted in the two brothers, biological issues of the deceased, inheriting their late parents full estate. Should the Rawlings have formally adopted Marley, he too would have been entitled to a share along with his two brothers.