You have asked whether the natural children of number holder (NH) Daryl E. C~ can
be entitled to benefits as the NH's survivors when they had been adopted by someone
else during the NH's lifetime. The facts presented are that the NH's sister, Helen
F. K~, adopted the NH's natural children, Daryl W. C~ and Rena L. C~, on June 12,
1989. The NH died in North Carolina on March 15, 1999. On April 28, 1999, Ms. K~ filed
for child's insurance benefits on behalf of both children. It is not clear from the
materials presented whether the NH was actually living with or contributing to the
children's support at the time of his death. For the reasons set forth below, if the
NH was not living with or contributing to the children's support when he died, the
children cannot be entitled to benefits on his record. If the NH was living with or
contributing to the children's support when he died, the provisions of 42 U.S.C. §§
416(h)(2)(A) and 416(h)(3)(C)(ii) should be considered.
In addition, you have asked whether all North Carolina cases in which the natural
parent died after 6/30/55 should be submitted to OGC, or only those in which the adoption
proceedings began after 3/15/41 and before 3/11/49. This inquiry arose out of POMS
GN 00306.170 (State Laws on the Right of Adopted Child to Inherit from Natural Parent - North
If the NH was not living with or contributing to the children's support when he died,
North Carolina intestacy law does not affect the outcome of the instant claims because
the children were adopted before they applied for benefits and before the NH died.
Under 20 C.F.R. § 404.361(b)(1), amended effective April 26, 1999, "Except as indicated
in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, if you are legally adopted by someone other than
the insured (your natural parent) during the insured's lifetime, you are considered
dependent upon the insured only if the insured was either living with you or contributing
to your support ...".
If the NH was living with or contributing to the children's support when he died,
20 C.F.R. § 404.361(b)(1) would not preclude their entitlement, and, as previously
stated, the provisions of 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(h)(2)(A) and 416(h)(3)(C)(ii) should be
considered. Your inquiry focuses on the application of § 416(h)(2)(A). This section
provides that applicants who according to State law would have the same status relative
to taking intestate personal property as a child shall be deemed such.
Section 48-1-106 of the General Statutes of North Carolina (N.C. Gen. Stat.) provides
for the legal effect of a decree of adoption as follows:
(a) A decree of adoption effects a complete substitution of families for all legal
purposes after the entry of the decree...
(c) A decree of adoption severs the relationship of parent and child between the individual
adopted and that individual's biological ... parents. After the entry of a decree
of adoption, the former parents are relieved of all legal duties and obligations due
from them to the adoptee ....
The North Carolina Supreme Court has concluded that the General Assembly "evidenced
its intent that by adoption the child adopted becomes legally a child of its new parents,
and the adoption makes him legally a stranger to the bloodline of his natural parents."
v. Mitchell, 281 S.E.2d 1, 4 (N.C. 1981). Further, the court states that an adoption is intended
as "a complete substitution of families" and severs the adopted child's legal ties
with his natural parents including rights of intestate succession. Id. at 5. Thus, it appears that, under North Carolina law, Daryl W. C~ and Rena L. C~
do not have the status of children relative to taking intestate personal property
of the NH, and are not eligible for children's insurance benefits based on his account
under 42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(2)(A).
However, an applicant who is the son or daughter of an insured individual but who
is not, and is not deemed to be, the child of that individual under § 416(h)(2) shall
nevertheless be deemed to be the child of the insured if the insured individual is
deceased and is shown by evidence satisfactory to the Commissioner to have been the
mother or father of the applicant, and such insured individual was living with or
contributing to the support of the applicant at the time such insured individual died.
42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(3)(C)(ii). Consequently, if as you state in your inquiry, Daryl
and Rena are the NH's natural children and he was living with them or contributing
to their support when he died, the children would be entitled to child's benefits.
Otherwise, they are precluded from benefits under 20 C.F.R. § 404.361(b)(1).
You have also asked which cases should be submitted to the RCC pursuant to GN 00306.170 (North Carolina). By way of background, the General Assembly of North Carolina enacted
its first adoption statute in 1873. The 1873 statute was first rewritten in 1941.
The 1941 statute (§ 48-6) continued a distinction between adoptions for the minority
of the child and adoptions for the life of the child. Succession by children adopted
for life from or through their natural parents took place only where, but for such
succession, the State of North Carolina would succeed to the intestate's property
(escheat). The provisions of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 48-6 were made applicable only to adoptions
made after March 15, 1941. In 1949, a 1947 rewrite of the statute took effect, and
the legislature omitted the provision allowing inheritance by, from or through a natural
parent to prevent escheats. By amendments enacted in 1955, adopted children were specifically
prohibited from inheritance or succession rights to real and personal property by,
through, or from a natural parent. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 28-149(10) and (11) and 29-1(14)
and (15). In 1963, the rights of the adopted child were further spelled out.
As stated in Crumpton v. Crumpton, 221 S.E.2d 390, 393 (N.C. App. 1976):
It seems abundantly clear that the General Assembly, on its own motion and also in
response to judicial decisions, has, with every amendment and every rewrite of the
adoption statute, evidenced its intent that by adoption the child adopted becomes
legally a child of its new parents, and the adoption makes him legally a stranger
to the bloodline of
his natural parents. See Rhodes v. Henderson, 188 S.E.2d 565 (N.C. App. 1972).
Thus, with respect to your inquiry as to the correct procedure pursuant to GN 00306.170 (North Carolina), it appears that a child adopted after 3/10/49 may NOT inherit from
a natural parent except where the adoption proceedings began before that date and
were completed after that date in accordance with such law in effect between 3/15/41
and 3/11/49 (in such cases the POMS rule covering that period would apply). As previously
stated, by 1955 statutory amendment, adopted children are specifically prohibited
from inheritance rights to real and personal property of a natural parent.