Legal Memorandum: Equitable Adoption and Inheritance

Issue: Should a half blood cousin’s intestate share be reduced by 50% if no equitable adoption can be argued?

Area of Law: Estate Planning & Probate, Family Law
Keywords: Equitable adoption; Intestate
Jurisdiction: Texas
Cited Cases: 658 S.W.2d 764; 834 S.W.2d 443; 448 S.W.2d 149
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 10/01/2013

In 1969, the Court of Civil Appeals of Texas in El Paso applied the intestacy statute to reduce the intestate share of the intestate’s half-blood cousin.  In Rogers v. First Nat’l Bank of Midland, 448 S.W.2d 149 (Tex. Civ. App. 1969), J.A. Cato and Martha Higgins Holman Cato each had children from a previous marriage before they were married.  During their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Cato also had children together.  As a result, three groups of children were formed—”his children,” “her children,” and “their children.”  There was no evidence that either had adopted any of the other’s biological children.  The decedent in Rogers, Myrtle Cato Mendel, and her cousin, Martha May Rogers, were the only descendents of “their children.”  However, sixteen other cousins descended from either “his children” or “her children.”  In other words, those sixteen cousins were “half blood” as they related to the decedent.  Accordingly, the sixteen half blood cousins were entitled to half of the intestate share of Martha May Rogers, who was “whole blood.”

Parties who live in a parent-child relationship based on an unperformed agreement to adopt the child do not create the legal status of a parent and child. However, the parent’s promises and conduct can create an equitable adoption which allows the child to assert intestate succession rights to the parent’s estate.


Equitable adoption estops those claiming under the deceased parent […]

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