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Lankford v. Wright

Supreme Court of North Carolina
489 S.E.2d 604 (N.C. 1997)


Mary Winebarger gave birth to a daughter, Barbara Ann Newton Lankford (plaintiff), and shortly afterward entered into a written agreement with her neighbors, Clarence and Lula Newton, in which the Newtons agreed to adopt and raise Barbara as their own child. Subsequently, the Newtons held Barbara out as their own child in every respect, and in turn, Barbara identified the Newtons as her parents long after entering the age of majority. After Clarence died, Lula prepared a will naming Barbara as a co-executrix of Lula’s estate and making specific bequests to Barbara. Upon Lula’s death, Barbara presented the will to probate, but the probate court rejected the document. Because the will could not be probated, Lula’s estate was to be distributed intestate. Barbara filed a petition seeking a declaratory judgment pertaining to her rights and status as an heir of Lula’s estate. The administrators and named heirs of Lula’s estate (defendants) filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion, and Barbara appealed. The court of appeals affirmed, reasoning that Barbara had not been adopted pursuant to North Carolina law and that the Newtons were merely Barbara’s foster parents. The Supreme Court of North Carolina granted Barbara’s petition for discretionary review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Frye, J.)

Dissent (Mitchell, C.J.)

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