Inheritance After Adoption

family three male generationsAdoption in Oklahoma City can have a major impact not just on families, including the adopted children, but also on various legal proceedings and issues, like inheritances. An adopted child could potentially be ruled as an heir, which could have a major influence on inheritances. If you or a loved one are adopting a child or giving a child up for adoption, it is wise to speak with an adoption lawyer to learn more about how adoption can impact you and your family.

Case: A Child Placed for Adoption is a Pretermitted Heir

One of the most important cases in Oklahoma is the case of Rogers v. Estate of Pratt, which was ruled on by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2020. In this case, the adopted child, Robinson Rogers, was determined to be a pretermitted heir and ultimately had the right to his biological mother’s entire estate upon her passing.

After going up for adoption in Oklahoma shortly after birth, Rogers reconnected with his biological mother, Judith Pratt, when he turned 18. He had, in fact, lived with her for several months. Besides Rogers, Pratt had no other children. Her husband died in 2007, and she passed away in 2017.

In September 2017, after receiving treatment for chronic cancer, Judith Pratt visited her lawyer and picked up the will in a car in a parking lot. The next day, Judith signed the will in front of a notary and two witnesses, all of whom later reported that she seemed fully competent and knew what she was doing. In the will, she left her estate to family members, including Cerita Morley, who took care of her.

When Pratt passed away, her adopted son, Robinson Rogers, argued that he was a pretermitted heir. Pratt knew that Rogers was alive and was her son. Her will also did not explicitly leave Rogers out and specifically said that she had no children, which Judith Pratt knew to not be true. As such, the Supreme Court ruled Rogers was a pretermitted heir and stood to inherit all of Judith’s estate rather than her other family members.

A Closer Look at Pretermitted Heirs and the Legal Situation in Oklahoma

A pretermitted heir is someone that is not included in a will but is seen to have a right to inheritance. The omission may be due simply to an unintentional oversight. Typically, children and spouses have a right to inheritance, and a will need not be in place for them to inherit something. If a family friend is to be given any sort of inheritance, however, they must specifically be named in a will.

When it comes to understanding legal issues, it is smart to read the original wording of the statues in question.

When any testator omits to provide in his will for any of his children or for the issue of any deceased child unless it appears that such omission was intentional, such child, or the issue of such child, must have the same share in the estate of the testator, as if he had died intestate, and succeeds thereto as provided in the preceding section. 84 O.S. § 84-132

Essentially, the laws mean that a child cannot be left out of a simply by leaving them out. Instead, if a child is to be left out of an inheritance, it must be obviously intentional and stated. Otherwise, the child or children in question can argue that they are pretermitted heirs, which means that they have an automatic right to an inheritance. This right can be revoked in many cases, but for this to happen, it must often be blatantly and unambiguously stated.

Inheritance From Adoptive and Biological Parents

Adopted children can inherit both from their adoptive parents and biological parents. If a parent wants a child excluded from inheriting anything, they need to state so in convincing, unambiguous language within the will. It is wise to have an estate and adoption attorney Oklahoma overlook the will and the wording to ensure that everything is termed properly.

There are a few options for ensuring that a child does not receive anything. A parent might simply state bluntly that the child is to receive nothing. Another measure is to name the child and leave an intentionally small amount. A will might also state that no children should be permitted to be pretermitted heirs. Generally, it is best to include specific names when drafting wills.

A parent, on the other hand, loses their right to inherit from a child upon the termination of parental rights.

Seek an Adoption Attorney OKC for Legal Assistance

Inheritances and wills are very complex, and it is wise to speak with an estate and adoption attorney OKC to ensure that everything is in order. Contact Lisa R. Howard, P.L.L.C., right away for a consultation.

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this Website is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.