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Estate of Donnelly

    Brief Fact Summary. Kathleen M. Kelly as administratix of the decedent’s estate alleges that Jean Louise Iverson, her niece, should not inherit from the decedent. State statue provides that an adopted child is not to be considered an heir of his natural parents, however it does not state whether an adopted child shall not take from his natural grandparent.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Although the state statute does not expressly provide the Court finds that the legislature intended that an adopted child may not inherit from their natural grandparents just as they may no longer inherit from their natural parents.

    Facts. John J. and Lilly Donnelly were married and had two children, Kathleen M. Kelly and John J. Jr. John J. Jr. had one child, Jean Louise Donnelly, and died less than a year after her birth. Jean Louise’s mother remarried and she was adopted by her step father. Lilly Donnelly died leaving a will that left all of her property to her husband, John J. Several years later John J. died leaving a will which left his entire estate to his wife who had predeceased him. Kathleen M., as administratix, brought this action to determine heirship and declare that Jean Louise take nothing and that she, Kathleen M., be adjudged the sole heir.

    Issue. May an adopted child inherit from their natural grandparents?

    Held. No. Reverse. An adopted child may not inherit from their natural grandparent.

    Discussion. State statute provides that an adopted child shall no longer be an heir of their natural parent. State adoption laws are intended to divest the natural parent of all legal rights and obligations with respect to the child and provide the child with fresh start treating him as the natural child of the adoptive parents. Consistency requires that reading of the two statutes together the only conclusion is that the inheritance statute was intended to transfer all rights of inheritance out of the natural family upon adoption and place them entirely with the adopted family, including inheritance from grandparents.


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