Who’s the Rightful Heir to This Family Fortune?

A few weeks after their aunt's death, the Nixon children received a letter from the bank explaining their father’s cousin had laid claim to the inheritance. Who should get the money? You be the judge.

By Vicki Glembokci
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine August 2010

Signing williStock/Thinkstock

The Verdict:

Under the U.S. Constitution, states must give “full faith and credit” to the judgments of other states. Which was exactly what the Douglas County judge ruled in December 2007: Nebraska was required to recognize the adoption that took place in California. Richard Daley, the judge ordered, is the sole beneficiary of Grace Nixon’s portion of the Nixon family trust. The Nixon siblings filed an appeal asking the Nebraska Supreme Court to review the case. Sixteen months later, on April 10, 2009, it upheld the lower court’s decision: Daley is indeed Grace’s rightful heir to the family fortune. Wells Fargo was ordered to deliver the trust’s assets to him. “My grandfather,” says Ken Nixon, “is rolling over in his grave.”

You be the judge!

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Was justice served? Comment below.

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  • Your Comments

    • Anonymous

      If the adoption was legal, the adopted son should get the money. Otherwise, the others should get it.

    • Nick

      To say that the attempt was to defraud is subjective. Her intent could have been whatever her relationship was with her adopted son, the needs of his family, his being a doctor does not mean he didn’t need money. There could have been a foundation the doctor was setting up in Grace’s name (albeit a college fund ) the reason for and how he used the money are superfluous. Her will made it clear that her adopted son gets the money. I believe that this is a clear case of the equal protection clause being applied. When the Constitution is clear on a matter, there is little left for judges to decide. However, it is great grist for debate…I use it in my class all the time..

    • gtbmel .

      It seems that Grace should have got her share when her mother died in 1980. At that time it was her money and up to her to decide what to do with it. I don’t think she would be obligated to follow her father’s will at this time. If she died before her father then her father’s will would determine alternative people to inherit.

    • Sultry_Clue

      Ha. This is hilarious.

      I know it sounds bad on a purely moral standpoint, and perhaps even fraudulent in a way, but I can understand why Grace Nixon did it. She didn’t like her brother and wasn’t close to him or his family. So naturally she did not want her part of her father’s estate to go to him. In her shoes, as bad as it sounds, I might have tried to pull off the same thing.

      In any case, the offspring of John Jr. had absolutely no right to be making plans for their part of Grace’s estate. The adoption, however hilarious, was legal.

    • Ted A

      I think Ken Nixon is right. His grandfather is rolling over in his grave, but not for the reason he thinks. I think he would be ashamed of those kids for wanting more than their share of that money. They already got the share that belonged to John Jr. This share was Grace’s and she had the right to adopt anyone she wanted and leave the money to them. Her father provided for that. Shame on the Nixon kids for wanting to double dip.

    • adell

      Well, although it is a lot of money, and I can see why that would be upsetting, I wonder about the people who expected to get it. Did they love their aunt? Did they visit her, talk to her, help her out when she needed it? It certainly sounds like there was no relationship there, which I find very sad. It was her money and she had every right to give it to whomever she wanted. It’s just sad when money becomes so much more important than family.

    • Chris

      The case is clear. The adoption is legal. It is also clear the adoption was done with intent to defraud the estate. You can uphold the adoption while also preventing the estate from being defrauded and a halfway competent lawyer would present the full story and instead of just asking for a ruling on the adoption also ask for a ruling to prevent inheritance. The mistake is that the lawyer they hired fought to prevent the first but said nothing about the second.