In re Eddins' Estate

Decision Date22 April 1938
Docket Number8126.
CourtSouth Dakota Supreme Court

Appeal from Circuit Court, Brown County; Howard Babcock, Judge.

Proceeding in the matter of the estate of John C. Eddins, also known as J. C. Eddins, deceased, by Nellie Marie Eddins against J Williams, as executor of the estate of Martha Eddins deceased, for a share in the estate of John C. Eddins. Judgment for petitioner, and defendant appeals.


Chas J. Lundberg, of Groton, for appellant.

Chas N. Harris and Max Stokes, both of Aberdeen, for respondent.


On the 11th day of March, 1916, Estill Seeley Eddins and Nellie Frances Eddins, his wife, adopted Nellie Marie Eddins as their adopted daughter. Nellie Frances Eddins, wife of Estill Seeley Eddins, died on or about the 28th day of October, 1919, and said Estill Seeley Eddins died on or about December 29, 1929. Estill Seeley Eddins left surviving him no child or children other than the said Nellie Marie Eddins. John C. Eddins, father of said Estill Seeley Eddins, died on the 7th day of August, 1932, leaving surviving him his wife, Martha Eddins, and the said Nellie Marie Eddins, who claims to be a surviving heir at law.

No question is raised as to the legality of the adoption of Nellie Marie Eddins by Estill Seeley and Nellie Frances Eddins, or that they legally stand in the relation of parent and child to each other.

Nellie Marie Eddins, claiming to be an heir at law of the said John C. Eddins, petitioned for a share of his estate. This claim was resisted by the executor of the estate of said Martha Eddins who had died after the death of John C. Eddins; and whether the said Nellie Marie Eddins became an heir at law of John C. Eddins by virtue of her adoption by Estill Seeley Eddins, the son of said John C. Eddins, is the issue, and the only issue involved on this appeal. The county court held that she was not such heir and made an order to that effect. From such order, the said Nellie Marie Eddins appealed to the circuit court. The circuit court reversed the order of the county court, and from the judgment of the circuit court the said executor appeals to this court.

The adoption of children, their rights after adoption, and the rights of parents by adoption are all provided for by sections 201 to 211, inclusive, R.C.1919. The property rights and such rights of inheritance as they have by reason of such adoption are provided for by sections 208 and 209. These sections read as follows:

"The county judge must examine all persons appearing before him pursuant to the last section, separately, and if satisfied that the interests of the child will be promoted by the adoption, he must make an order declaring that the child shall thenceforth be regarded and treated in all respects as the child of the person adopting."
"A child, when adopted, may take the family name of the person adopting. After adoption the two shall sustain towards each other the legal relation of parent and child, and have all the rights and be subject to all the duties of that relation."

At first glance it would seem that the second clause of section 209 reading as follows, "After adoption the two [meaning the adoptive parent or parents on the one side and the adopted child on the other] shall sustain towards each other the legal relation of parent and child, and have all the rights and be subject to all the duties of that relation," confers upon the adopted child the same rights of inheritance as children of parents by birth, but the courts almost invariably hold that such is not the case. The reason upon which the distinction is based is that, while the relation of parent and child is declared by an order of the judge of a court of competent jurisdiction, the relationship has its inception in contract and is essentially contractual; that while parents can adopt children and thereby make such children their heirs, they cannot make them the heirs of others who are not parties to the contract of adoption, unless the statute under which the adoption is made shows a...

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