Intestate Succession is a term used when a person dies without having a valid Will in place.


Therefore, if an individual dies intestate, the deceased’s assets and estate will then be distributed in terms of the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987 (“the Act”) to his/her surviving spouse, and/or children, and/or blood relatives (known as intestate heirs).


There is always the concern that if an individual dies intestate then what is to happen to his/her adopted child. Is there a guarantee that the adopted child will inherit from the estate in the same way a natural child would inherit? Do they have equal rights in terms of intestate inheritance? The answer is yes.


In simple terms a legally adopted child is treated as if he/she had been born to the adoptive parents and therefore has a right to inherit from his/her adoptive parents and adoptive parents’ relatives.


The above is regulated in terms of Section 1(4)(e) of the Act which states that an adopted child shall be deemed to be a descendent of his/her adoptive parent or parents. In other words the adopted child will be treated as the biological child of the adoptive parents.


Unfortunately, if a child has not been legally adopted, in terms of the law, that child cannot inherit intestate.  In these circumstances the only way to guarantee that the child you are raising inherits your estate, or a part thereof, is to have a valid Will drafted bequeathing your estate, or to legally adopt the child you are raising to enable them to inherit intestate.


In conclusion, legally adopted children are entitled to inherit from their adoptive parents, even though there is no blood relation. South African Law views adopted children as the natural children of their adoptive parents and are thus entitled to inherit intestate.


MAYA NARSAI MAKAN specializes in Divorce and Family Law Matters and is an associate at Alan Levy Attorneys Notaries and Conveyancers.

Maya can be contacted on or 011 326 8050.