SW Legal studies in Business

Parents Who Give Children Up for Adoption Cannot Inherit from the Children

A Washington high court held that when a biological parent gives up all parental rights by putting a child up for adoption, the parent severs all parental rights, including the right to inherit the estate of the child, should the child die without a will.

Topic Wills, Estates, and Trusts
Key Words Inheritance; Adoption
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Thomas Fleming was born to Margaret Fleming in 1946. Paternity was not established and Margaret gave up Thomas for adoption in 1947, at which point the juvenile court entered a parental termination order stating that Margaret was "permanently deprived of any and all maternal rights and interests in and to the said Baby Boy Fleming." Thomas was raised in an orphanage and never married. Margaret later had a son, Antonio. Thomas died intestate (no will) in 1996. The administrator of his estate filed a petition with the court to determine if Margaret or Antonio had any right to inherit Thomas' estate. If they did not have the right to inherit the estate, it would escheat (go) to the state, as there were no other heirs. The trial court and appeals court held that Margaret and Antonio had no right to the estate; they appealed.
Decision Affirmed. "Under the express language of the statute and termination order, Fleming lost all of her rights and interests in Thomas in 1947. While the order could not change Fleming's status as the biological parent of Thomas, it did end her legal status as a parent." Since she was no longer the parent of Thomas, she had no right to inherit any of his estate. Similarly, Antonio has no right to any of the estate "because he and Thomas do not share the same legal parent."
Citation In re Estate of Fleming, 21 P.3d 281 (Sup. Ct., Wash., 2001)

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