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Biddle Law Estate Planning Blog

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Adoption and Inheritance Rights in CA: What to Know

When individuals die without a will (intestate) the state has a certain order in which it provides the decedent’s assets to particular individuals. For example, when someone dies intestate, their property will generally transfer equally among their children (should they have any). But what about children who are adopted? Can the same be said for them? What are their rights? Here’s what to know about adoption and inheritance rights in California. 

In the state of California, adopted children enjoy all of the same rights as their biological counterparts do concerning their inheritance rights. Adopted children may inherit from their deceased adoptive parent or they may inherit from someone else through their deceased adoptive parent. As a general rule, adopted children may no longer inherit from their biological parents, assuming that their adoption has been made legal.  

In the same vein, short of a few exceptions, when an adopted individual passes away, his or her descendants (i.e. children) may inherit from their deceased parent’s legally adoptive parents but not their deceased parent’s biological parents. In other words, once an individual has been legally adopted, it is as if their adoptive parents become their biological parents for purposes of inheritance. 

Adult Adoption Practices

The California Court of Appeals for the 1st District heard the case of Estate of Fusae Obata. This case looked at whether or not California law recognizes the Japanese adult adoption practice, Yoshi-engumi, with concern to inheritance laws. In Japan, this practice has very different purposes than that of U.S. adoptions. 

In the U.S., families tend to adopt minor children. However, in Japan, adult adoptions are not uncommon. They are usually motivated and executed for the purpose of providing the elderly with an extended support system. Where there are no adult biological children, this practice allows for the continuation of a house that would otherwise die out. 

Estate of Fusae Obata

In Estate of Fusae Obata, the court looked at whether the descendants of a Japanese man who had been adopted in adulthood should lose their right to inherit from that same man’s biological parents. In California, the law of the jurisdiction in which the person is adopted is the one that applies. This helps to determine whether the adoption is considered legal. For purposes of determining heirs, California also looks to the jurisdiction in which the individual dies. 

In this case, the Court found that under the Japanese law, “the adopted person is considered a biological child for all purposes.” Therefore, in this case, the descendants of the Japanese man who was adopted were unable to inherit from his biological parents since his adoption was considered to be legal. 

Essentially, this case demonstrates that where adoptions have occurred in another state or foreign country, so long as the law of the foreign jurisdiction where the adoption took place recognizes it, so too will California. 

Biddle Law Helps Those in California Who Are Dealing with Probate Issues

As you can see, the probate process can be extremely confusing. That’s why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced California Estate Planning and Probate attorney.

At Biddle Law, we want to ensure that both the decedent and the heirs get what they deserve. We will fight to ensure that the decedent’s assets go to the right people. Let us help you with any of your trust and probate questions and needs. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!


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