In In re Estate of Hines, the trial court held that an applicant was not equitably adopted by the decedent in an heirship proceeding. No. 06-20-00007-CV, 2020 Tex. App. LEXIS 8000 (Tex. App.—Texarkana July 27, 2020, no pet.). The applicant appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed. The court first addressed the law on equitable adoption:

Adoption by estoppel takes place “when [a person’s] efforts to adopt [a child] are ineffective because of failure to strictly comply with statutory procedures or because, out of neglect or design, agreements to adopt are not performed.” The doctrine of equitable adoption is not “the same as legal adoption” and does not contain “all of the legal consequences of a statutory adoption.” Courts in Texas have “long” recognized the doctrine of equitable adoption. The Texas Estates Code recognizes the doctrine, defining “child” as including a person adopted by “acts of estoppel.” For example, a child has been adopted by estoppel “when a natural parent delivers a child into the custody of others under an agreement between the parent and the custodians that the child will be adopted, and thereafter the custodians and child live in relationship with that of parent and child.” “In no case” has a court in Texas “upheld the adoptive status of a child in the absence of proof of an agreement or contract to adopt.” The agreement may be oral. Adoption by estoppel must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence. Even though Texas recognizes the doctrine of equitable adoption, it has “done so only with caution and within certain well-defined boundaries.” It exists to prevent “a situation where it would be inequitable and grossly unfair to the adopted child, who has performed services and rendered affection, for the adoptive parent or his privies to deny the adoption.” Yet, adoption by estoppel is not a statutory doctrine. Instead, it is a judicially created equitable doctrine…  [T]o establish that there was an agreement, Hilton was required to prove that Hines (1) executed “a statutory instrument of adoption in the office of the county clerk”; (2) attempted to complete the statutory adoption but failed “to do so because of some defect in the instrument of adoption, or in its execution or acknowledgment”; or (3) agreed with “[Hilton] to be adopted, or with [Hilton]’s parents, or some other person in loco parentis that he . . . would adopt [Hilton].”

Continue Reading Court Affirmed Finding That An Applicant Was Not Equitably Adopted Where There Was No Evidence Of An Agreement To Adopt The Applicant