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Inheritance Rights of 'Equitably Adopted' Children

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at

330. Inheritance Rights of 'Equitably Adopted' Children

330.1 If an adoption has not been completed, can the child still be considered a child of the worker?

In some cases, a worker may not complete a contemplated adoption. Most States give the child in heritance rights in the worker's intestate personal property if certain conditions are met. If so, the child may qualify for benefits as the worker's "equitably adopted child."

330.2 What are the conditions for qualifying as an 'equitably adopted' child?

Generally, the following conditions must be met:

  1. An expressed or, in some States, implied contract for the worker to adopt the child;

  2. A legal consideration for the worker's promise to adopt;

  3. In some States, a promise to give the child inheritance rights in the worker's personal property;

  4. Surrender of the child to the worker;

  5. Performance by the child under the contract; and

  6. Sufficient lapse of time so that the child could have been legally adopted under applicable State law.

330.3 What documentation must be provided?

All pertinent documents, together with complete and detailed statements of the parties and other persons having knowledge of the facts, setting forth full information about the factors listed above must be submitted. Each case must be handled on an individual basis.

Note: An equitably adopted child must have been living with or receiving contributions from the worker at the applicable time (see §337).

Last Revised: Aug. 1, 2006




Not affiliated with the US Social Security Administration