(CN) – Three siblings lost a right to the $677,000 estate of their dead aunt because their mother, sister to the aunt, severed the family’s legal ties when she was adopted at the age of 53, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled.
Richard Kummer, Charles Kummer III and Jane Kummer were in the process of dividing the proceeds of the estate of their aunt, Justine Critzer, when their late mother’s adult adoption came to light.
Critzer died in 2006 without a husband, siblings, children, parents or a will. The administrator of Critzer’s estate originally thought that the Kummers were distant cousins of the decedent but then discovered that the siblings’ mother, Mary Frances Kummer, was Critzer’s biological sister.
After the Kummers and administrator sold Critzer’s two properties for $677,000 total in 2008, division of assets came to a halt because the administrator discovered that the Kummers’ mother had been adopted in 1981.
Arietta Henry Kaleta, an aunt by marriage, had adopted the 53-year-old Mary Frances Kummer.
A Virginia judge in Warren County ruled that this adoption severed the Kummers’ legal ties to Critzer and her estate.
The Kummers appealed, but the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the adoption of an adult had the same effect as the adoption of a child.
“Mrs. Kummer became the child of her adopting parent and no longer was the child of her biological parents,” Justice William Mims wrote for the five-judge court on Sept. 16. “Consequently, Critzer and Mrs. Kummer, while biologically sisters, were not legally sisters for the purposes of intestate succession.”
“Thus, the Kummer children’s inheritance rights do not change based on Mrs. Kummer’s adoption as an adult rather than a child,” Mims added. “The effect of Mrs. Kummer’s adoption as an adult divested her and her descendents of inheritance rights running from her biological family. The Kummer children are not Critzer’s heirs-at-law and cannot inherit from her estate.”