Adult adoption of parent bars intestate succession of children from parent’s biological sister.

Justine Critzer died intestate in 2006. The administrator of Justine’s estate determined that Justine’s only possible heirs-at-law were: (1) the children of Justine’s biological sister, Mary Frances Kummer; or (2) distant cousins. Mary, however, was adopted in 1981, at the age of 53, by her husband’s aunt. The administrator petitioned the court for aid and direction on the proper heirs at law. The circuit court held that Mary’s children were not Justine’s heirs at law, and the children appealed.

On appeal, the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court on the grounds that: (1) under Virginia Code § 64.1-5.1, an adopted child is deemed to be the child of the adopting parent and not of the biological parents; (2) upon her adoption as an adult, Mary ceased to be the child of her biological parents for purposes of intestate succession; (3) Mary was therefore no longer Justine’s sister for intestate succession purposes; (4) under Virginia law, the adoption of an adult has the same effect as the adoption of a child; (5) the effect of Mary’s adoption was that she and her descendents were divested of all intestate inheritance rights running from Mary’s biological family; and (6) Mary’s children were therefore not Justine’s heirs at law and could not inherit from her intestate estate.