Friday, April 17, 2009

Nebraska Adult Adoption Case

John A. Nixon Sr. provided that a family trust would support his wife until her death.

When she died in 1980, the trust was divided in two, with the beneficiaries being Grace Nixon and her brother John A. Nixon Jr. The money from Grace Nixon’s trust would go to her brother or his surviving children upon her death.

Under the terms of her father’s will, the proceeds of a trust created for her in Nebraska would go to her brother and, upon his death, to his four children.

So Nixon, then 64 and living in California, adopted her 50-year-old paternal cousin in 1986. Her cousin, Dr. Richard Daley, would inherit the trust fund instead of her brother’s four children.

Keep this secret, Nixon told Daley, according to court records. Even Daley’s mother, who did not relinquish her parental rights, did not know of the adoption.

The Nebraska Supreme Court, relying on the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution, ruled Friday that Daley is entitled to the trust proceeds, even though such an adult adoption is not permitted under Nebraska law.

John Liakos of Omaha, an attorney for the Nixon children, said he was shocked and surprised by the ruling.

“There are some things that rise to the level of being so offensive that there should be a declaration that it’s against public policy,’’ Liakos said. “How can you have two mothers at the same time?’’

The high court noted that in his will, John A. Nixon Sr. made no distinction between biological children and adopted children.

The court said that while Nebraska does not allow adult adoptions, there is nothing in the state’s law or public policy to deny adoptees inheritance rights.

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