Image from Pixabay. Because I need something bright and cheery for this post.
I’m adopted and the adoption was finalized in May 1975 when I was six months old. So 46+ years ago. The adoption papers my Mom has say that all legal, financial and otherwise connections to my biological parents and family is severed completely and forever and ever.
Only, the law changed on January 1, 1980 and then again in 2012… and now my adoption is considered a “weak” adoption. And it’s effective retroactively. Meaning that suddenly some of the profound legal connection is there: I am one of my biological parents’ heirs when they die, and I also inherit my biological siblings if they don’t have children or a married spouse. Also meaning that if I die before my Mom – it is my biological mother who inherits me, not my Mom, because I don’t have children and I’m not married. I do and did inherit my adopted parents, but not equally with their own biological children (my adopted parents only ever had me and no biological children, so that bit is moot I guess… but that nice bit of law is still there for other adopted people and their families).
So in short, my legal status is not what my parents and I have thought it to be for over 47 years.
Adoptions finalized on January 1, 1980 or later are “strong” adoptions: all legal, financial and otherwise connections between an adopted child and the biological parents and family is completely severed: neither can inherit the other automatically as a matter of law (only with a testament). And also the adopted child’s rights to inherit the adopted parents and their family were made equal with the adopted parent’s own biological children.
We found all this out when one of my biological siblings called me a week ago, to let me know that my biological father had died in April, and that I had shown up as one of my biological father’s children in legal documents when they finally got them in July, to their and my biological mother’s surprise. And to my and my Mom’s shock!
Somehow my Mom and Dad had totally missed this weak vs. strong adoption thing back in 1980, nobody had said anything when my Dad died in 1989, and again we missed all about it again in 2012! My Mom and Dad have always actively followed news, and I have too from 2011 onwards and still we missed it! I do have a vague memory of some news about 10 years ago about changes to the rights of the children to find out their fathers if they were conceived via IVF sperm donation but I don’t remember there being mention about changes to adoption laws and retroactively at that. But about a such huge change to the legal status of adoptees??? Nothing. Nada. Silence. I’ve been googling like crazy this past week and not a single news article about it have come across my way! This is actually such a profound change in a citizen’s legal status, that both my Mom and I think families affected should have been informed by a letter. But nothing!
Okay, partly it’s our fault for not knowing – although to partly explain it, when the biggest change was made in 1980, my Dad was only 2-3 years away from getting a brain cancer diagnosis and who knows – he may have been feeling some effects already then that made him not quite as a alert and sharp as usual and took both Mom’s and his attention and then from 1984 on he was ill and had three brain surgeries in four years. But still.. it wasn’t reported in news in any sort of notable way, it looks like. I mean really… how could we know if it hadn’t been widely in the news? So I call this all bullshit! I’m so mad! I don’t want to inherit some complete unknown, and I don’t want my apartment going to some other complete unknown instead of my Mom should I die before her, or my cousins if she’s already dead!
I sort of feel like the legal system and the politicians who made these law updates took a huge dump on me and everyone adopted before January 1, 1980 and then pissed on us for good measure.
Luckily there’s a simple way to finalize a weak adoption into a strong adoption, so that’s what I’m pursuing right now. But it’ll take however many months. But once done, if the court approves it, all the legal and otherwise connections are in actuality severed to my biological family and none of them will inherit me or I them (and my Mom and cousins will inherit me) as it should be, and as I’ve thought it is my whole life.
This all is completely unnecessary, making people’s lives unnecessarily hard. I’m lucky in that I’ve known my whole life that I’m adopted… my Mom and Dad thought best to tell me in an age-appropriate ways right from the start because all our relatives, friends, kids next door, neighbors etc. would know Mom hadn’t been pregnant, so the chance of me finding out accidentally or hearing whispers behind my back was great. But I had a class mate in school who found out on her 18th birthday that she was adopted – she felt completely betrayed by her parents, and would have nothing to do with them. Although there were heavy other reasons as well; they were very strict, what I know of them makes me think they wre borderline abusive. But imagine the shock if you had made it to your 47th year, didn’t know you were adopted and then suddenly your world turns upside down and inside out when you get a phone call from your biological sister. I’m secure and comfortable in my identity, and even so this profound change in my legal status has thrown me in for a loop emotionally and mentally (I can tell you – my migraine has really been loving the last several days!), not to mention in just practical things… just imagine what it would be like to someone who didn’t know!
This has been such a shock that I haven’t felt anything about the fact that my biological father has died… I’m not sure if I even should. Some of my biological siblings would like to get to know me, no idea what I think about that either. I’ve always known the names of my biological parents, and the adopted child is allowed to contact the biological family if so desired, but I never did. I’ve been content as I’ve been. Oh, and joy – my Mom has to deal with all this too, not only the emotional but also the legal. The weak adoption affects her too as far as inheritances go. Anyway, I’m pursuing a strong adoption and I’m hopeful that in time things will change back to what we always thought they were and what they should be.
I’m not sure what to do about the inheritance – I’m strongly leaning towards rejecting it/giving it up/whatever the legal term is. I know there are some debts that the heirs have to be careful and do things the right way in order not to become responsible for the debts, but I don’t know if there’s anything beyond maybe a house or an apartment. And there are at least six heirs, maybe more (turns out I have five biological full or half siblings all in all) so even if there’s something, it might not amount to much or anything even if it’s enough to cover the debts. And, I’m of the mind that because it was never supposed to be mine, and I don’t want it, and I also have zero emotional connection to any property or stuff so I’d only be interested in any money if there’s any (does that make me mercenary? I can’t help it, my income doesn’t cover all my medical expenses) which more than likely is very little at most so…. I can/should decline the inheritance and not risk having to pay inheritance tax or having to pay for anything else either. But a tiny part of me goes, what if he was a millionaire..? There’s only like 1% chance (the adoption authorities tried to match the parents on economics and professions and he wasn’t in a profession that typically makes a person rich) but you never know! But even if he was – do I have moral right to inherit some of it, considering that wasn’t the plan when the adoption was carried out? And what if there’s arguments between the other heirs?? I do not want to deal with that, or anything else problematic that might rise from the inheritance itself or just simply from processing the thing.
I hate that none of this won’t be over for probably at least the rest of the year – the estate inventory needs to be drawn and signed by the end of the year, but bureaucracy is so backlogged it’ll probably take all the time allowed it. I’m also lucky if I get the court’s ruling on the strong adoption by the end of the year, for the same reason.
So much to think about, to stress over. I haven’t even thought much about some of my biological siblings wanting to get to know me, if that’s what they really want and it’s not a some kind of ploy about the inheritance, all this weak adoption shit is so stressing! This whole thing is just complete and other bullshit and I hate hate hate that I (and Mom) have to go through it!