Adoption by Estoppel in Texas

Adoption by Estoppel in Texas

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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Inheritance Rights of Illegitimate Children.

Inheritance Rights of Illegitimate Children.

What are illegitimate child rights to inheritance in Texas? In Texas, until 1991, illegitimate children did not inherit from their parents. In that year, the Texas Supreme Court, following an earlier ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, held that the statutes that deny inheritance rights to illegitimate children violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

As originally enacted, the Texas Estates Code (formerly the Probate Code) accorded paternal inheritance rights to an illegitimate child only if the parents had married after the child’s birth. The statute was amended several times to allow inheritance rights to illegitimate children if the father took some voluntary action to acknowledge the child before he died.

In declaring the statute unconstitutional, the Supreme Court said “(t)he legal status of illegitimacy is, like race or national origin, a characteristic beyond an individual’s control, and it bears no relation to the individual’s ability to participate in and contribute to society…thus, a statutory classification based on illegitimacy violates equal protection unless it is substantially related to an important governmental interest.” Finding no substantial government interest in denying inheritance rights to illegitimate children, the Supreme Court declared the statute unconstitutional.

 

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The current Texas Estates Code (formerly the Probate Code) provides that illegitimate children inherit from their parents and other ancestors and descendants to the same extent as legitimate children.

Problems arise in proving paternity not whether paternity allows the inheritance. Problems like the child is never acknowledge as a child or is unknown as a child of their biological parents. This can happen when a mother gives birth without telling anyone and letting the child be adopted. It can also happen when a father denies that he is the father but no paternity suit is ever filed. What does the child do in those circumstances?

Illegitimate children can petition the probate court to determine paternity and their rights of inheritance. The statute of limitations requires that the children must petition the court within certain time limits after the death of the parent.

Because a child inherits from his ancestors and descendants, an illegitimate child may find that his biological grandparents had a substantial estate and seek to inherit from them. He might also discover that he has siblings from whom he would inherit. The point to remember is that if you discover that you have a family that you did not know you had or that has denied you being a child of that family, you should contact an attorney quickly to secure your rights.

Do not take, or refrain from taking, any action based on what you read. You need to discuss your situation with your attorney who can advise you based on your facts.

If you have a question about a pending or anticipated lawsuit about contesting a will in Texas, use the Contact Us page at the top of the site to see if we can help.

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Robert Ray is Board Certified

Robert Ray is the Editor and owner of this site. Board Certified, Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We handle cases throughout Texas. Our principal office is in Lantana, Texas (DFW area).
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Children – natural born, adopted or adopted by estoppel in Texas

For the purpose of inheritance, there are natural children, adopted children, and children adopted by estoppel, also called equitable adoption. What do these terms mean?

  1. Natural children are, of course, the children born to the parent.
  2. Adopted children are children that were adopted by the parent through the legal system.
  3. “Adoption by estoppel” sometimes called “equitable adoption” or “adoption status” means those children who were not adopted through the legal system but are nevertheless recognized by the law as the adopted children of a deceased person. This involves children who were raised by a decedent (someone other than their parents) and there must be a parent child relationship established between the person (the decedent) who raised them and the children. It is legally similar to a common law marriage.

When a person dies intestate or when they leave a will that makes general references to “my children” or “my heirs,” all of the above will inherit. Once the status of “child” is established, it makes no difference whether they are natural children or adpoted children. Adpotion by estoppel is a little different but they still inherit from the parent. See the discussion of informal adoptions like adoption by estoppelequitable adoption or adoption status here.

Your Privacy

We take your privacy very seriously. We are keenly aware of the trust you place in us and our responsibility to protect your privacy. We treat all information provided to us with care and discretion.

Robert Ray is Board Certified

Robert Ray is the Editor and owner of this site. Board Certified, Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

We handle cases throughout Texas. Our principal office is in Lantana, Texas (DFW area).

Robert Ray Texas Inheritance

Click here to email us or to go to the contact form if you want to contact us about a Texas inheritance dispute.

Learn if Adopted Children Inherit From Their Biological Parents

Learn if Adopted Children Inherit From Their Biological Parents

In Texas, when a child is adopted, he becomes the child of his adoptive parents. He inherits from and through them. That means that the adopted child will inherit from the ancestors of the parent who adopted him as well as from the parent. There is no difference based on the adoption.

The question is often asked about the Texas inheritance rights of the adopted child from his natural (birth or biological) parents. Generally, the adopted child inherits from his natural parents and his adoptive parents. Of course, this only applies if the parents, adoptive or biological, don’t have wills. If either or both have wills, their estate goes to whomever they say in their will. Texas does not have “forced heirship.” An adoptive or biological parent does not have to leave anything to his children. But if he does not have a will and dies intestate, then his estate would be divided between all of his children whether natural (birth or biological) or adopted.

An exception to the above rule may occur if the parental rights of the biological parent were terminated by a court order. If the termination order is silent as to inheritance, then the above rule applies. If, however, the termination order says that the child will not inherit from his biological parent, then there would be no inheritance unless the biological parent left a will specifically naming the child as a beneficiary. FC 161.206.

An adopted child can contest a will of his parents just as any child can.

Your Privacy

We take your privacy very seriously. We are keenly aware of the trust you place in us and our responsibility to protect your privacy. We treat all information provided to us with care and discretion.

Robert Ray is Board Certified

Robert Ray is the Editor and owner of this site. Board Certified, Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

We handle cases throughout Texas. Our principal office is in Lantana, Texas (DFW area).

Robert Ray Texas Inheritance

Click here to email us or to go to the contact form if you want to contact us about a Texas inheritance dispute.

Read About Pretermitted children in Texas

Contesting a will in Texas

What is a pretermitted child

A pretermitted child is a child who is born or adopted after a will is made and is not mentioned in the will. Most states have statutes that deal with this issue. In Texas, the statute provides that if the child is not otherwise provided for by the deceased parent, the child will take a portion of the estate even though he is not mentioned in the will.

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pretermitted child or a “forgotten child” is a child of the deceased who is both:

 1. born or adopted after a parent’s will is executed, and

 2. is not otherwise provided for by the parent.

Most states have statutes that deal with this issue. In Texas, the statute provides that if the child is not otherwise provided for by the deceased parent, the child will take a portion of the estate even though he is not mentioned in the will. §255.051, et. seq. Remember, if there is no will, the child would inherit a child’s share of the estate so the pretermitted child statute only applies if there is a will.

I have written on my blog about the requirements pretermitted children need to show in order to receive their inheritance and referenced several cases. To see a discussion of some Texas cases on inheritance rights of pretermitted children, click here.

Update: A 2017 case out of Pennsylvania had an interesting twist in a pretermitted child case. The child, who was born before the will was executed, attempted to get around the requirement that the child had to be born after the will was executed by claiming that her father was not aware of her existence until after the will was executed. The court did not agree and denied her status as a pretermitted child because she was born before the will. Estate of Sidney Rothberg, Deceased, No. 1428 EDA 2016, 2017 PA Super 198.

If you have questions about your Texas inheritance rights and would like to talk to an estate planning attorney or a lawyer who is familiar with Texas inheritance and probate law to advise you about your Texas inheritance rights, click on the “Contact Us” tab at the top.

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Who and What we Are

Robert Ray is Board Certified

Robert Ray is the Editor and owner of this site. Board Certified, Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We handle cases throughout Texas. Our principal office is in Lantana, Texas (DFW area).
Contesting a will in Texas

Your Privacy

We take your privacy very seriously. We are keenly aware of the trust you place in us and our responsibility to protect your privacy. We treat all information provided to us with care and discretion.

Let Us Help You.

Inheritance Rights of Children in Texas

As an easy starting point to learn about the inheritance rights of children, the following list is provided:

  1. The inheritance rights of natural children;
  2. The inheritance rights of adopted children;
  3. The inheritance rights of children born after a will is made; and
  4. The inheritance rights of illegitimate children.

Click on one of the links above to learn more about the inheritance rights of children. If you don’t find the exact answer to your question, use the search box in the upper right hand corner to refine your search.

Your Privacy

We take your privacy very seriously. We are keenly aware of the trust you place in us and our responsibility to protect your privacy. We treat all information provided to us with care and discretion.

Robert Ray is Board Certified

Robert Ray is the Editor and owner of this site. Board Certified, Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

We handle cases throughout Texas. Our principal office is in Lantana, Texas (DFW area).

Robert Ray Texas Inheritance

Click here to email us or to go to the contact form if you want to contact us about a Texas inheritance dispute.

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