Inheritance Rights and the Step-Partner Adoption Paradigm: Shades of the Discrimination Against Illegitimate Children

Due to changing social norms and evolving reproductive technology, the issue of what constitutes a family, and more specifically, what constitutes a legally recognized parent-child relationship, is one of the more complex and hotly debated issues in the legal academy. Because inheritance rights attach themselves to a legally recognized parent-child relationship, the discussion has spilled over into the law of wills and trusts. Traditionally, inheritance rights have been based on family paradigms that assumed a traditional nuclear family. Increasingly, however, the traditional nuclear family is no longer the norm. The law of wills and trusts has failed to keep pace with these societal changes, a failing for which it has been harshly criticized. As applied to the emerging phenomenon of step-partner adoptions, the failure to keep pace with family law developments is not only inequitable, it is also unconstitutional.

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