Your estate planning attorney may ask you whether any of your children are adopted. This may seem like an odd question, among many odd questions, but the question is important. Your estate planning attorney is trying to determine whether your child has been legally adopted or is a step-child or other important child in your life.
If your child has been legally adopted, he is treated the same as your biological children under the law. In other words, there is no legal difference between biological and adopted children.
However, there is a big difference if you refer to a child as yours, but legally he is not your child. If you want to include a special child that is not legally yours in your estate plan, you can do that quite easily. However, the child must be identified by name.
For example, a child that is not legally yours will not be included in a distribution “to all of my children, equally.” In addition, you are not able to appoint guardians or make welfare, medical, educational, and life-style decisions for a child that is not legally yours without legal authorization.
It is irrelevant that everyone in your family thinks of that child as yours.
So, if you have beloved children, such as step-children, nieces, nephews, or friends, be sure to identify the relationship for your estate planning attorney. Your attorney will include the appropriate language in your estate plan to carry out your wishes.
Also, be sure to let your estate planning attorney know if you are in the process of adopting the child. Provisions can be made until the adoption is final.
If you have questions about why your estate planning attorney wants to know whether you have any adopted children, feel free to ask why. Your estate planning attorney welcomes your questions.