Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Descendants of an adopted-out heir are entitled to inherit. The intestate died without a surviving spouse, descendants, parents, siblings, nieces, or nephews. Thus, her sole heir appeared to be her great-nephew who claimed her entire estate. A complication arose, however, because her nephew had been adopted by her sister-in-law’s second husband. An assignee claimed that an alleged half-cousin of the intestate assigned to him 25% of whatever interest the half-cousin would have in the intestate’s estate. The trial court dismissed the assignee’s request for a bill of review determining that the great-nephew was the intestate’s sole heir. On appeal, the court affirmed. The court carefully examined the assignee’s argument that state law provides that only an adopted-out person retains the right to inherit from the biological relatives and that the right to inherit from the biological side of the family does not pass down to the descendants of the adopted-out person. The court rejected the assignee’s claim that this results from the omission of “and his descendants” in the mandate that the adopted person “inherits from and through the [person’s] natural parent or parents.” The court explained that the statutory section must be construed as a whole and in doing so, it is clear that adoption does not cut off the inheritance rights of the adopted person as well as those of the adopted person’s descendants. In re Estate of Forister, No. 04-00046-CV, 2013 WL 6086934 (Tex. App.—San Antonio Nov. 20, 2013).
Special thanks to William LaPiana (Professor of Law, New York Law School) for bringing this case to my attention.