Does An Adoptive Child In a Step-Parent Adoption Inherit from and Through Both Biological Parents ?
In New York, under most circumstances, "the right of an adoptive child to inheritance ... from and through his natural parents shall terminate upon the making of the order of adoption" (Domestic Relations 117[b]). One exception to the general rule is set forth in Domestic Relations Law section 117(1)(d), enacted in 1966, which provides that, in the case of a step-parent adoption, the adoptee only inherits from and through the natural parent who married the step-parent and not from or through the other natural parent (see Matter of Chase, supra, footnote at 416).
However, this exception was expanded by the 1936 amendment set forth in Domestic Relations Law section 117(1)(c).
Subdivision (1)(c) expressly overrides any inconsistent provision in subdivisions 1(a)(b) and (d) and provides that adopted children may inherit from and through their natural parents as to estates of persons dying alter August 31, 1987, provided that the decedent is the adoptive child's natural grandparent or is a descendant of such grandparent and that an adoptive parent is married to the child's natural parent, or is the child's natural grandparent.
Thus, even though the piecemeal amendment of Domestic Relations Law section 117 to cure the problem de jour has led to seemingly conflicting subdivisions, the provisions of subdivision (1)(c) prevail to the extent that there are any inconsistencies and provide that, in a step-parent adoption, the adoptive child inherits from and through both biological parents, including the biological parent that has not married the step-parent or consented to the stepparent adoption (Matter of Seamen, 78 N.Y.2d 451, 583 N.E.2d 294, 576 N.Y.S.2d 838).