Estate Rights of Adopted and Foster Family Members

We recently had a meeting with two men who were foster children/siblings in a family from the time they were ages 5 and 6, but were never adopted.  The men were regarded as sons and brothers of the foster family.  Now, in their late fifties, one of their brothers has passed away and they need to know if they have any beneficiary rights to their foster brother's estate in Ohio. Estate Rights of Adopted and Foster Family Members Estate Rights of Adopted and Foster Family Members

Is There A Last Will and Testament?

The first consideration is whether the deceased individual had a Last Will and Testament.  If the deceased foster brother had a Last Will and Testament which named his foster brothers as beneficiaries, then under Ohio law, they have legal rights regarding the estate.

Statute of Descent and Distribution

However, without a Last Will and Testament, the law in Ohio is very clear.  The Statute of Descent and Distribution (Ohio Revised Code Section 2105.06) provides a clear and distinct identification of estate beneficiaries and the direction for the disposition of an estate when a person dies without a Last Will and Testament.  The statute does not include or identify foster family members as beneficiaries in the disposition of a person's estate.

While foster children are not identified in the Statute of Descent and Distribution, adoptive parents are included for distribution of a person's estate.  Further according to Ohio law, (O.R.C. Section 3107.15(A)(2)), a person who has been lawfully adopted under a final decree issued by a probate court, is considered to be a lineal descendant of the adoptive parent as if the adopted person were a legitimate blood descendant.

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Unlike foster family members, an adopted family member has certain rights protected by Ohio law.  Specifically, an adopted child has standing to contest a parent's Last Will and Testament, while a foster child is not afforded the same right under Ohio law.  Also, according to O.R.C. Section 3107.15(A)(2), an adopted family member is treated as a lineal descendant of the parent for the purposes of inheritance and applicability of statutes, a foster family member is not identified as a lineal descendant.  

If you would like to learn more about your rights as a beneficiary of an estate call (440) 530-3605 to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney at The DiCello Law Firm.

REFERENCES: Ohio Revised Code Section 2105.06 and Ohio Revised Code Section 3107.15

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