John Henry Kirkpatrick was born Gion Rosetti to J oseph and Beatrice Rosetti in 1914. He had 10 siblings. On January 25, 1927, Edgar and Margaret Kirkpatrick adopted Gion and his brother, Leo. The Kirkpatricks changed Gion’s name to John Henry Kirkpatrick and Leo’s name to Edward Watson Kirkpatrick. The other nine birth siblings were either adopted away or remained with their birth parents. John Kirkpatrick was married briefly, divorced, and had no children. Edward Kirkpatrick married and, with his wife, raised a daughter, Karen Shippey. John and Edward Kirkpatrick’s nine biological siblings produced eight children (the cousins).
John Kirkpatrick died intestate on August 4, 2000, leaving a substantial estate consisting of stocks, bonds, real estate, and personal property. Shippey and Rick R ogers were appointed co-personal representatives of John Kirkpatrick’s estate. Shippey and Rogers filed a document asking the court to determine the proper heirs for distribution of the estate. Shippey argued that she was John Kirkpatrick’s sole heir because his adoption terminated the rights of any biological relative not adopted by his adoptive family. Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 2-4-101 and 2-4-107 establish the rules of intestate succession and, specifically, those that apply to persons in an adoptive family. The pertinent parts are:
Except in cases above enumerated, the estate of any intestate shall descend and be distributed as follows: (ii) If there are no children, nor their descendents, then to his father, mother, brothers and sisters, and to the descendents of brothers and sisters who are dead, the descendents collectively taking the share which their parents would have taken if living, in equal parts. An adopted person is the child of an adopting parent and of the natural parents for inheritance purposes only. An adopted person shall inherit from all other relatives of an adoptive parent as though he was the natural child of the adoptive parent and the relatives shall inherit from the adoptive person’s estate as if they were his relatives. Will Karen prevail?