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Sacramento Estate Planning Attorney

Adoption complicates probate, siblings disinheritted

In a case that illustrates the kind of problems California attorneys who provide estate planning services deal with regularly, a judge ruled that their mother's adoption severed three siblings' legal connection to their aunt, which caused them to be denied any part of the aunt's estate. The Virginia probate decision frustrated the siblings, who were already in the process of dividing up their aunt's belongings. However, the adoption eliminated the siblings' legal rights, even though it happened when their mother was already 53.

The deceased had no living husband, siblings, or children. She also died without a will. The estate administrator originally thought the three siblings at the heart of the case were distant cousins, and only later discovered that their mother was the deceased's biological sister.

The deceased's two properties, valued at nearly $700,000, had already been sold. Unfortunately for the siblings, the estate's administrator discovered that the siblings' mother had been adopted -- at the age of 53 -- back in 1981. A Virginia judge ruled that the adoption eliminated the siblings' rights to inherit. Their mother was no longer legally the deceased's sister, and any claims that would have passed through her were no longer legally binding.

This sort of issue demonstrates the need for careful estate planning. Had the deceased created a will, the probate decision may well have been different. The absence of a will meant that the siblings' mother's action disinherited her own children from the estate of thier biological aunt. And while the circumstances of this case are somewhat unique, the adult adoption represents the kind of problem that has complicated probate decisions in California. Those consiering or in the process of estate planning may well benefit from consulting an attorney well versed in the laws of estate administration and probate in order to devise a plan that is equitable and in accordance with the wishes of the client.

Source: Courthouse News, "Adult Adoption Stalls Estate Inheritance," Jeff D. Gorman, Sep 26, 2011

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My Sacramento law practice, Michael A. Sawamura, Attorney at Law, focuses on wills, trusts and estate planning law in addition to business law and corporate defense services. My clients include professionals, government employees, small businesses, blue-collar workers and national corporations.

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