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Hall v. Vallandingham

    Brief Fact Summary. Four children appeal from a judgment wherein it was determined they were not entitled to inherit from their natural uncle, by taking the share their deceased father would have received intestate, due to the fact they were adopted by the man their mother married after their father’s death.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Family Law Art. Section:5-308 plainly mandates that adoption be considered ‘”rebirth” into a completely different relationship, and once a child is adopted, the rights of both the natural parents and relatives are terminated.

    Facts. Earl J. Vallandingham, died in 1956 and was survived by his widow, Elizabeth, and their four children, appellants. Two years later, Elizabeth married Jim Walter Kilgore, who adopted the appellants. In 1983, Earl’s brother, William Jr., died intestate with his sole heirs being his surviving brothers and sisters and the children of his brothers and sisters who predeceased him. After the Inventory and First Accounting of Williams estate were filed, appellants alleged they were entitled to a distributive share of their natural uncle’s estate that their natural father would have received if he had survived William. The Orphan’s Court transmitted the issue to the Circuit Court for St. Mary’s County and the tribunal determined the four natural children of earl were not entitled to a distribution from William’s estate because of their adoption by Kilgore. Appellants, unwilling to accept the court’s disposition, appeal.

    Issue. Whether the trial court erred in denying the appellants the rights to inherit through their natural paternal uncle, due to the fact appellants were adopted as minors by their stepfather after the death of their natural father?

    Held. No. Judgment affirmed.
    The court held that because Est. & Trusts Art. Section:1-207(a) eliminates the adopted child’s right to inherit from the natural parent, it also abrogated the right to inherit through the natural parent by way of representation.

    The right of inheritance was removed by the Maryland Legislature in 1963 when it declared: “Upon entry of a decree of adoption, the adopted child shall lose all rights of inheritance from its parents and from their natural collateral or lineal relatives.


    Discussion. Est. & Trusts Art. Section:1-207(a) and Family Law Art. Section:5-308 emphasize the clean cut severance from the natural bloodline. Since an adopted child has no right to inherit from the estate of a natural parent who dies intestate, it follows that an adopted child may not inherit through the natural parent by way of representation.


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