Wills Trusts & Estates keyed to Dukeminier
O’Neal v. Wilkes
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Hattie O’Neal, appellant, was born out of wedlock and raised by her mother until her mother’s death in 1957. For four years after her mother’s death, appellant lived with her maternal aunt, Ethel Campbell. In 1961, Campbell surrendered physical custody of the appellant to a woman named Louise who was known to want a daughter. Shortly thereafter, Louise determined she couldn’t care for appellant and took her to the home of Estelle Page, the sister of appellant’s biological father. After living a short time with Page, Roswell Cook and his wife, who wanted a daughter, picked up appellant. Although he never statutorily adopted appellant, Cook raised her and provided for her and she resided with him until her marriage in 1975. Appellant never took Cook’s name but Cook referred to her as his daughter and referred to her children as his grandchildren. Cook died intestate in November 1991. Firmon Wilkes, appellee, was appointed as administrator of Cook’s estate and refused to r ecognize appellant as having an interest in Cook’s estate. In December 1991, appellant filed a petition in equity, asking the court to declare a virtual adoption that would thereby entitle her to the share in Cook’s estate she would have received had she been statutorily adopted by Cook. A jury found appellant had been virtually adopted by Cook. On post trial motions the court granted a judgment not withstanding the verdict to appellee on the ground that Page had no legal authority to enter into the adoption contract with Cook.
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