from the District Court for Pawnee County: DANIEL E. BRYAN,
L. Hillman, of Hillman, Forman, Childers & McCormack, for
Voegele-Andersen and Brenda K. Smith, of Dvorak & Donovan Law
Group, L.L.C., for appellee Roger Jerome Burnett.
C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, MILLER-LERMAN, CASSEL, and KELCH, JJ.
STACY, J., participating on briefs.
Jerome Burnett seeks to quiet title to a quarter section of
farmland in Pawnee County, Nebraska (Property). He argues
that he owns the Property because he is the " eldest
son" of Merrill Maddocks under the will of Merrill's
great-uncle. In 2006, a Colorado court entered a decree for
adult adoption which made Burnett, then 58 years old,
Merrill's heir under the intestacy laws. The trial court
quieted title to the Property in Burnett.
Clyde Maddocks, the person who takes the Property if Burnett
is not Merrill's " eldest son," appeals. We
conclude that Burnett is not Merrill's " son"
under the will because he lacked a parent-child relationship
with Merrill. We reverse, and remand with directions to quiet
title to the Property in Jeffrey.
W. Maddocks died in 1938. His will directed the executor to
reduce certain assets to cash and purchase a farm selected by
Charles' nephew, A. Walter Maddocks (Walter). Item 7(b)
of the will provided:
I give and bequeath to my said nephew, A. WALTER MADDOCKS, a
life estate for the term of his natural life in and to the .
. . farm so purchased, and at his death I give and bequeath
to MERRILL MADDOCKS, a son of said A. Walter Maddocks, a life
estate for the term of the natural life of said Merrill
Maddocks, in and to said . . . farm, with remainder over at
his death to his eldest son, in fee simple; or, if said
Merrill Maddocks shall leave no son surviving, then with
remainder over in fee simple to the eldest grand-son in the
male line of said A. Walter Maddocks, then living; or, if
there is then living no grand-son, in the male line of
descent, of said A. Walter Maddocks, then with remainder over
to the surviving heirs at law of said A. Walter Maddocks . .
county court for Pawnee County admitted Charles' will for
years later, the executor of Charles' estate bought the
Property. The deed quoted part of item 7(b) of Charles'
will and stated that Walter had selected the Property. The
deed further stated that the parties intended that "
title to the premises herein and hereby conveyed shall vest
in the grantees strictly in the manner provided by said last
will and testament."
died in 1977. His grandson, Jeffrey, survived him. Burnett
stipulated that, at Walter's death, Jeffrey was "
the eldest grand-son in the male line of said A. Walter
Maddocks, then living."
1988, Burnett's mother married Merrill. In 2006, a
Colorado court entered a decree for adult adoption under
which Merrill adopted Burnett as his adult " heir at
law." As a legal term of art, " heir" means
one who receives an intestate decedent's
property. And, as discussed below, the only
effect of the decree was to make Burnett the heir of Merrill
for intestate succession.
2014, Merrill died. He did not leave any surviving children.
Merrill died, Burnett filed a complaint to quiet title to the
Property in him. Burnett alleged that the Property was his
because he was Merrill's " eldest son" under
was the only defendant who answered. He alleged the Property
passed to him under Charles' will because he was the
eldest grandson in Walter's male line. Jeffrey argued
that Burnett was not Merrill's " eldest son"
under the will because " it was not legally possible to
adopt an adult" in Nebraska when Charles died. Jeffrey
alleged a counterclaim against Burnett and a cross-claim
against the other defendants seeking to quiet title to the
Property in him.
decree, the court quieted title to the Property in Burnett
and dismissed Jeffrey's counterclaim and cross-claim. It
stated that Burnett was Merrill's " eldest son"
because the Colorado decree was entitled to full faith and
credit in Nebraska.
appeals. We note that neither he nor Burnett informed the
trial court of what effect the decree for adult adoption had
under Colorado law. We asked the parties to submit
supplemental briefs on that issue.
assigns, restated, that the court erred by (1) quieting title
in Burnett and (2) not quieting title in Jeffrey.