How JustAnswer Works:

  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.

Ask TJ, Esq. Your Own Question

TJ, Esq.
TJ, Esq., Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 9833
Experience:  JD, MBA
9373668
Type Your Estate Law Question Here...
TJ, Esq. is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

we were raised by a step mother for 38 yrs, we had no bio mom

Resolved Question:

we were raised by a step mother for 38 yrs, we had no bio mom at any point in our lives, our father was common law married to our step mother until he passed away 2010. She was our mom, we loved and cared for each other all these years, and she would not allow anyone to say step children or step mother, we were her children and she was our mom, she died in 2012, with a will, and left everything to us, her children, daughters and named us individually, she had a life estate and intended for us to inherit it, she had no bio kids of her own, no living parents, no siblings. a cousin she did not know now has come forward stating he is the heir because we were never adopted by her. What can we do.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  TJ, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Hello and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to assist you.

Q: a cousin she did not know now has come forward stating he is the heir because we were never adopted by her.

A: Fortunately, there is little for you to do so far as the cousin is concerned. This is a very simple case. You wrote: "she died in 2012, with a will, and left everything to us." That is all that matters. A person may leave her assets to anybody that she chooses in her will. Accordingly, the only possible argument for the cousin to make would be that the will itself is invalid for some reason (e.g., forgery, etc.). If the will is valid, then the cousin has no argument. The assets are yours. So, the will should be submitted for probate so that the judge can rule that it is the last will and testament of your mother. Once the will is ruled valid, then the executor of the estate (probably you or your sibling) can distribute the assets to the people named in the will (you and your sibling). The cousin gets nothing.

Does that answer your question? Please let me know if you need clarification, as I am happy to continue helping you until you are satisfied. Also, your positive feedback is much appreciated. Thank you for using our service!

If you would like to direct additional legal questions to me in the future, then please type "To VAMD" in the subject line of your question.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

she raised us as her children, she called us her children and daughters in her will . he states we do not qualify to inherit her life estate because we were never adopted by her and that her fathers will left it to her for life, since we were not born to her, or adopted by her we should not inherit. Also the definition in her last will and testament defines children and child as being born to or adopted by her. so the will contradicts itself. it was standard form and the definition should have been taken out by the attorney who was fully aware that we were her step children due to many other matters she had handled for us. we probated the will 16 months ago.

Expert:  TJ, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Hi again.

It's unfortunate that the will defines children such that you would be excluded. However, you also mentioned that the will specifically named you. The will controls, and if there is evidence that your mother was referring to you when she wrote "children," then you'd win that argument. Again, the cousin would almost certainly lose any argument that contradicts the will.

However, I will point out that a will only governs assets that the deceased person owned (and which is now owned by the estate). If your mother had a life estate, then her legal interest in the property expired when she passed. So, the will would not usually control what happens to the remainder. Whoever created the life estate made that determination. But the person who made the life estate (your step-grandfather?) could have complicated matters by stating that the remainder goes to your mother's legal heirs. If that was the case, then you may not be entitled to the remainder interest because you are not legally an heir. You're a beneficiary of the will, but that is different. Unfortunately, the fact that you were treated as her children does not make a difference in this situation. A judge would be forced to rule against you (even though he probably would not like to make that ruling).

As an aside, if you could prove that your mother's attorney was negligent, then you may have a case against him for malpractice.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I was told that we may qualify for equitable adoption, we have multitudes of papers and people tha thave come forward to say she claimed us as her children, always. we gave around the clock care to her when she was placed on hospice. after the death of our father she became completely dependent on us for care. what are your thoughts

Expert:  TJ, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Hi again.

The Texas courts say the following about equitable adoption:

To show equitable adoption, a person must prove (1) the existence of an agreement to adopt and (2) performance by the child. 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, but a parent's promises and conduct can create an equitable adoption which allows the child to assert intestate succession rights to the parent's estate.The courts will recognize a child's right to inherit under the equitable theory of estoppel to prevent others from denying the child's right to inherit when efforts to adopt are ineffective because of failure to strictly comply with statutory procedures or because, out of neglect or design, agreements to adopt are not performed. Children claiming equitable adoption act in reliance on their belief in their `status' as children, not necessarily in reliance on agreements to adopt or on representations about adoptive status. Villarreal v. Acevedo, No. 03-03-00309-CV (Tex. App. 4/1/2004) (Tex. App., 2004).

As you can see, there needs to be an agreement to adopt which was not complied with, or efforts to adopt that were unsuccessful. If that is the case in your situation then you may be able to win that argument. I don't think the fact that your mother referred to you as her children is enough, however. Moreover, I'm sorry to say that the fact that you cared for her after your father passed is also not helpful in these legal arguments.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

when were young, all living at home she always told us that when she and our father got the fundstogether that she would adopt us, well that never happened. and the day she went to make her new will she told the attorney, I want to make sure that there is no question that these are my girls, all i have, and i want to be sure that i do everything possible, adotion or whatever to see that they get everything. The attorney told her you dont adopt middle age women, we can word the will to include them each equally. and she put children, and daughters, not step children. so here we are.

Expert:  TJ, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Hi again.

It may be possible to argue equitable adoption, but so far as the will is concerned, that probably shouldn't be necessary. I just don't see how the cousin could successfully argue that the will should be ignored. Of course, I don't have the will in front of me and I don't know exactly what arguments are being made by the cousin. But based on what you wrote, I don't see an issue with the will. The life estate is a completely different matter, as explained earlier.
TJ, Esq., Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 9833
Experience: JD, MBA
TJ, Esq. and 5 other Estate Law Specialists are ready to help you

JustAnswer in the News:

 
 
 
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

What Customers are Saying:

 
 
 
  • My husband has been driving me insane with questions regarding estate issues since his mother died. I'm not a lawyer! Thanks to JustAnswer, I was able to calm his concerns. Loretta T Illinois
< Last | Next >
  • My husband has been driving me insane with questions regarding estate issues since his mother died. I'm not a lawyer! Thanks to JustAnswer, I was able to calm his concerns. Loretta T Illinois
  • Thanks Adam!! - A very direct and understandable response - you have been a great help! Happy Customer Ellicott City, MD
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
  • My Expert was fast and seemed to have the answer to my taser question at the tips of her fingers. Communication was excellent. I left feeling confident in her answer. Eric Redwood City, CA
  • I am very pleased with JustAnswer as a place to go for divorce or criminal law knowledge and insight. Michael Wichita, KS
  • PaulMJD helped me with questions I had regarding an urgent legal matter. His answers were excellent. Three H. Houston, TX
  • Anne was extremely helpful. Her information put me in the right direction for action that kept me legal, possible saving me a ton of money in the future. Thank you again, Anne!! Elaine Atlanta, GA
 
 
 

Meet The Experts:

 
 
 
  • Thomas McJD

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    3076
    Wills, Trusts, Probate & other Estate Matters
< Last | Next >
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/MC/mclemorelawyer/2011-9-21_193631_IMGP8718Version2.64x64.jpg Thomas McJD's Avatar

    Thomas McJD

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    3076
    Wills, Trusts, Probate & other Estate Matters
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/NY/nyclawyer/2012-6-7_22011_photo66139201112041.64x64.jpg Infolawyer's Avatar

    Infolawyer

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    3781
    Licensed attorney helping individuals and businesses.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/BA/barristerinky/2012-6-10_22423_office.64x64.jpg Barrister's Avatar

    Barrister

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    2188
    13 yrs estate law, real estate. Wills/Trusts/Probate
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/RA/rayanswers/2012-6-7_23346_Untitled1.64x64.jpg RayAnswers's Avatar

    RayAnswers

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    1484
    Texas lawyer for 29 years in Estate law
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/RO/RobertJDFL/2012-6-6_175352_7538220120606.64x64.jpg RobertJDFL's Avatar

    RobertJDFL

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    1226
    Experienced in multiple areas of the law.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/PH/philip.simmons/2012-6-7_161915_BIGPhilipSimmons.64x64.jpg P. Simmons's Avatar

    P. Simmons

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    770
    12+ yrs. of experience including estate law.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/RA/ratioscripta/2012-6-13_2955_foto3.64x64.jpg Ely's Avatar

    Ely

    Counselor at Law

    Satisfied Customers:

    754
    Fully licensed attorney in Texas in private practice.