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Minary v. Citizens Fidelity Bank & Trust Co

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Brief Fact Summary. Decedent’s son adopted his adult wife in the hopes of bringing his wife under the provisions of decedent’s trust in order for his wife to share in the proceeds from the trust.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. An adult person may be adopted in the same manner as provided by law for the adoption of a child and with the same legal effect.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

The adoption of an adult solely for the purpose of making him an heir of an ancestor under the terms of a testamentary instrument known and in existence at the time of the adoption is an act of subterfuge.

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Facts. Amelia S. Minary, died in 1932, leaving a will that devised her residuary estate in trust, to pay the income to her husband and three sons, James, Thomas, and Alfred, for their respective lives. The trust was to terminate upon the death of the last surviving beneficiary, at which time the corpus was to be distributed to decedent’s “then surviving heirs, according t the laws of descent and distribution then in force in Kentucky, and if no such heirs, then to the First Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky.” Minary’s husband dies, then James died without issue, and then Thomas died leaving two children. In 1934, the only surviving son, Alfred, married Myra, respondent, and in 1959 adopted her as his child. The trust terminated in 1963 upon Alfred’s dying without natural issue.

Issue. Whether respondent is included in the term “my then surviving heirs” according to the laws of descent and distribution in force in Kentucky?

Held. No. Judgment reversed.
The trial court erred in declaring Myra an heir of Amelia S. Minary. Even though the statute provides that the adoption of an adult shall be given the same legal effect as the adoption of a child, the court views this practice to be an act of subterfuge which in effect thwarts the intent of the ancestor whose property is being distributed and cheats the rightful heirs.

Adopting an adult for the purpose of bringing that person within the provisions of a pre-existing testamentary instrument, when that person was clearly not intended to be covered by the instrument, should not be permitted.

Discussion. The efforts of the deceased to dispose of her property as she saw fit are thwarted by giving strict and literal construction to the adoption statutes.

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