I recently read a fun novel involving intestate succession, adoption, and a highly contested kinship hearing: The Inheritance by Joanna Goodman. One of the main characters, Virginia Bunt, had a passionate affair with billionaire Wallace Ashforth that allegedly resulted in the birth of Arden Moore. Wallace and his wife Geraldine died in a plane crash. Neither of them had executed Wills, so they died intestate. Since Arden had not been formally recognized as Wallace’s daughter, the billionaire’s estate was distributed by the laws of intestate succession to his two sons, Bruce and Jamie. Bruce later died. Bruce’s Will left his entire estate to the Parkinson’s Foundation. Jamie successfully contested that Will. Since Bruce’s Will was found to be invalid, he, too, died intestate. Bruce had no spouse or surviving children, and the ever-conniving Jamie planned to inherit all of Bruce’s abundant estate pursuant to the laws of intestate succession. But wait – what about Arden? Can she establish herself as Bruce’s half-sister in accordance with New York law so that she can share in the riches?

If you want to know the answer to that question, you need to read the book. There are no spoilers here. However, an interesting aspect of this story is that Arden was adopted as a child by her beloved stepfather, Hal Koffler. What would have happened under this set of facts if Bruce had been a resident of Washington?

RCW 11.04.085 states, “A lawfully adopted child shall not be considered an ‘heir’ of his or her natural parents for purposes of this title.” If Bruce had resided in Washington, Arden would not be considered his half-sister pursuant to Washington’s laws of intestate succession. Instead, any intestate rights possessed by Arden would be limited to her rights to inherit from Virginia, Hal, or the associated family tree. Her statutory rights to inherit from the Ashworth family would have been severed by the adoption.

But Washington is not New York. What happens to Arden? I encourage you to read the book to find out!

This post is for informational purposes and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting with an attorney.

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