Adoption by Estoppel in Texas
Adoption by Estoppel
Texas recognizes adoption by estoppel, which is a form of informal adoption. 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 another 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), the child adopted by estoppel will inherit a share of this adoptive parent’s estate the same as any other child. Courts apply the doctrine regularly when, “because of the promises, acts, and conduct of an intestate deceased, those claiming under and through him are estopped to assert that a child was not legally adopted or did not occupy the status of an adopted child.” The doctrine of equitable adoption (adoption by estoppel) is not “the same as legal adoption” and does not contain “all of the legal consequences of a statutory adoption.” Rather, it merely protects an adopted child’s right to inherit by adoption as if the adoption had been legally completed. The Texas Estates Code recognizes the doctrine, defining “child” as including a person adopted by “acts of estoppel.