What is adoption by estoppel?

Texas 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 estoppelequitable 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.

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