In Texas, when a child is legally or formally adopted, they inherit to the same extent as natural children. A formal adoption is where the court system is involved. A suit for adoption is filed. Then, in some cases, the state investigates the adopting parents to make sure that they are good candidates for adoption. The home may also be inspected to make sure that the adopted child will be provided for. If everything is in good order, the judge approves the adoption and the adopted person becomes the child of the adopting parents with the same rights as a natural born child. That means that the adopted child inherits not only from the adopting parents but through them. They will inherit from grandparents and aunts and uncles to the same degree that a natural born child would inherit from them.
Texas also recognizes informal adoptions. An informal adoption is similar to a common law marriage in that no formal legal proceedings are involved. These adoptions may be called adoption by estoppel, equitable adoption or adoption status by the courts discussing them. The courts treat these as contract cases in that once the facts are established, the heirs of the adopting parent are estopped from denying the adopted child his inheritance rights. The courts look for an enforceable agreement between the adopting parent and the adopted child, his parents or some other person in loco parentis with the child. The adopting parent agrees to adopt the adopted child then confers affection and benefits upon them and the person who agreed with the adopting parent relies upon the adopted status. These informal adoptions are important where the adopting parent dies without a will. If the adopting parent leaves a will, he can leave his property to anyone he chooses. He can leave property to the adopted child or not. However, if he dies intestate (without a will) then the child adopted by estoppel will inherit a share of this adoptive parent's estate the same as any other child. 906 - 576
The informally adopted child will not inherit from his grandparents (his adoptive parent's parents) unless they were in privity with the adoption. He will only inherit from his adoptive parents not through them. In other words, persons not in privity with the adoption are not bound by the adoption.
Adopted children can contest the will of their parents. A formally adopted child and an informally adopted child whose adoptive grandparents were in privity with the adoption, can contest the will of their adoptive grandparents. Contesting a will is discussed here.
Example: There is an adoption by estoppel where Joe adopts Jane. Joe dies without a will. Jane inherits all or part of Joe's estate the same as any child would.
Example: There is an adoption by estoppel where Joe adopts Jane. Joe dies with a will that leaves his estate to his parents who survive him. Jane doesn't inherit from Joe because of the will. Later, Joe's parents die without a will. Jane isn't entitled to inherit from Joe's parents if they were not in privity with the adoption.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for
Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families
Children's Bureau put out a summary of the various states laws relating
to the adoption rights of those adopted, those adopting and the birth
parents that may be found here.
Copyright by Robert Ray a Texas inheritance attorney. The foregoing information is
general in nature and does not apply to every fact situation. If you
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