Estate of Snodgrass

The Facts

  • Decedent executed his will on January 23, 1990 and died on October 8, 2000.
  • Will named neither of Ps as beneficiaries.
  • Ps allege that they are the natural children of Marlin Snodgrass (decedent).
  • Mother was never married to decedent.
  • Carl Parr is Ps’ adoptive father.
  • Mother was married to Carl Parr when he adopted Ps.
  • D is decedent’s brother and executor of his estate.
  • Mother had a previous paternity case in which she sought to establish that the decedent was Ps’ natural father
  • Decedent consented to adoption by Carl Parr.
  • Section 2–4(d)(1) of the Probate Act provides as follows:
  • “(d) For purposes of inheritance from or through a natural parent and for determining the property rights of any person under any instrument, an adopted child is not a child of a natural parent, nor is the child a descendant of a natural parent or of any lineal or collateral kindred of a natural parent, unless one or more of the following conditions apply:
    • (1) The child is adopted by a descendant or a spouse of a descendant of a great-grandparent of the child, in which case the adopted child is a child of both natural parents.” 755 ILCS 5/2–4(d)(1) (West 2000).
  • Mother is Ps natural mother and her grandparents are Ps’ natural great-grandparents.

Procedural History

  • Decedent’s children, who had been adopted by their surviving parent’s spouse, brought will contest against executor of decedent’s estate.
  • Executor moved for summary judgment based on the fact that, as Parr’s adoptive children, Ps were not decedent’s children under Illinois law and therefore lacked standing to contest decedent’s will.
  • The Circuit Court, Champaign County, Harry E. Clem, J., denied executor’s motion for summary judgment, and certified question for interlocutory appeal.
  • The Appellate Court, Appleton, J., held that children had standing to challenge decedent’s will.

The Issue

  • When the mother of an illegitimate child marries someone other than the father of the child, and the spouse of the mother then adopts the illegitimate child, is the child still the child of his or her natural father for purposes of inheritance under [section 2–4(d)(1) ]?

The Holding/Disposition

  • Yes, remanded for trial

Court’s Reasoning

  • Ps argue that they are decedent’s children for purposes of inheritance under the exception in the statute because they were adopted by the spouse of a descendent of their maternal great-grandparents and thus is still a child of both natural parents.
  • D argues that Ps are not the decedent’s children for purposes of inheritance because the adopted child remains a child of both natural parents only if the adopting parent is a descendant, or spouse of a descendant, of a grandparent of the parent who no longer is a legal parent.
  • This means that if Carl Parr a brother or brother-in-law to decedent, Ps would still be children of both natural parents.
  • Court finds D’s argument to have no basis in the plain language of the statute and dismiss D’s absurd result argument.
  • Said even if the plain reading was inconsistent with sound public policy, they would not read any other meaning into it.
  • If the statute, as written, seems like a bad idea, the appeal should be to the legislature, not to the courts.

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