Rights of adopted children against their biological parent's estate/succession

It is said that adopted children will only be able to pursue a claim under the Inheritance Act against their biological parent’s estate if they can show that they had a relationship with that biological parent and are accordingly classed as a 'child of the family.

Background: the adopting Father abandoned the family and went to live in another jurisdiction, the son restored the relationship with the biological Father who wished to treat him as his own, cohabited with the son in London for a year, opened a joint account, and referred to the son as such in a will.

Can anyone provide references to recent case-law or an article on this topic ?

Thanking you all in advance,

Peter Harris

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In Hand v. George [2017] EWHC 533 (Ch), the court held that whilst an adopted person was the child of their biological parents, notwithstanding the specific provisions of the Adoption Act 1949 the child was entitled to make a claim on the estate of their adoptive parents under the I(PFD)A 1975.

Might the judgement be grounds for arguing the right flows both ways, entitling an adopted individual to claim against the estates of their biological parents, regardless of when the adoption occurred?

It seems to me that an illogical, and discriminatory, situation is being created by these cases - where an individual has been brought up by their biological parents, they only have potential claims against the estates of 2 parents, whereas if a child has been adopted, potentially they can have claims against the estates of 4 parents (perhaps cherry-picking the one(s) that have greatest value).

When Gregg v. Pigott was decided in 2012, I recall that the judge, Mark Herbert QC, suggested that his decision would be of only limited application, as it was the rules of intestacy that enabled the terms of the Human Rights Act to be invoked. Hand v. George has undermined that reasoning and it will be interesting to see if any similar case might get as far as the Court of Appeal, so that the application of the Human Rights Act to such scenarios may be properly ventilated.

Paul Saunders FCIB TEP

Independent Trust Consultant

Providing support and advice to fellow professionals

The country and time of the adoption isn’t detailed.

Under Samoan law, cultural law is reflected in the concluding words of section 10(2) of the Infants Ordinance 1961 that preserve “the right of an adopted infant to take property as heir or next of kin of his natural parents directly or by right of representation”, meaning an adopted child who was born in wedlock could take property as heir or next-of-kin of their natural parents directly or by representation, since this right is expressly preserved.

Lee Harris TEP

Foley Hughes, New Zealand

Thank you Paul. Most insightful.

I am extremely cautious about assuming that English statutes are of universal application abroad, a they tend to be directed at purely English, dare I say insular, issues within a limited jurisdictional context defined under “scope”

Peter Harris
Overseas Chambers