In the state of Texas, if a person dies without a will, then their estate is divided amongst their heirs according to the rules of intestate succession. A person’s child or children can inherit through intestate succession. This may seem straight forward but if a decedent has adopted a child, or if a potential heir was adopted, questions may arise on who can inherit.
Per the Texas Estates Code,
(a) For purposes of inheritance under the laws of descent and distribution, an adopted child is regarded as the child of the adoptive parent or parents, and the adopted child and the adopted child's descendants inherit from and through the adoptive parent or parents and their kindred as if the adopted child were the natural child of the adoptive parent or parents. The adoptive parent or parents and their kindred inherit from and through the adopted child as if the adopted child were the natural child of the adoptive parent or parents.
Tex. Est. Code Ann. § 201.054 (West).
This means that if a child was adopted, then they are considered to inherit from the adoptive parents in the same way that a biological child would. It also means if an adopted child predeceases their parents, then the parents may inherit from the adoptive child in the same manner that they would inherit from a biological child.
Sometimes complications arise when determining whether a child is an adopted child. The Texas Estates Code goes on to define an adopted child, “For purposes of this section, “adopted child” means a child: (1) adopted through an existing or former statutory procedure; or (2) considered by a court to be equitably adopted or adopted by acts of estoppel.” Tex. Est. Code Ann. § 201.054 (West). If a child is adopted through formal proceedings, then this is easy to determine but if a child is claiming to be equitably adopted or adopted by acts of estoppel, this can be much more difficult to prove.
An additional question that frequently arises is whether an adopted child can inherit through their biological parents. If a child is adopted, their biological family cannot inherit from the adopted child. However, an adopted child can still inherit from their biological family per the rules of intestate succession. This means that an adopted child could potentially inherit through their biological parents and their adopted parents. An important caveat to this is that if a person is adopted as an adult, they cannot inherit through their biological family.
These statutes will not circumvent distributions left in a will. If a person dies with a will, then they can leave distributions to whomever they want. This is affirmatively stated in the same section of the estates code. Tex. Est. Code Ann. § 201.054 (West).
Questions surrounding inheritance are often nuanced and complicated. It is best to consult with an estate planning attorney who can answer any questions and guide you through the process.
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