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Child must show she is born out of wedlock to inherit

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Ruling on the issue for the first time, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that the plain language of Indiana Code Section 29-1-2-7 requires a child to show she is born out of wedlock for inheritance purposes.

There have been other cases that appear to support the claim a child must show she’s born out of wedlock before application of I.C. Section 29-1-2-7(b), which governs the paternal inheritance to, through, and from children born out of wedlock, but none addressed the issues specifically, noted Judge Nancy Vaidik.

In Victor C. Regalado v. Estate of Joseph Regalado and Paula Heffelfinger, No. 64A05-0911-CV-672, the appellate court unanimously reversed summary judgment for Paula Heffelfinger in Victor Regalado’s petition to determine heirship, which alleged she was not Joseph Regalado’s half-sister. Joseph Regalado received a $15 million settlement from the City of Chicago in 2000 and died intestate in 2004.

His father, Baltasar, had married Heffelfinger’s mother in 2003, when Heffelfinger was 35 years old. They later annulled the marriage in 2005. In the agreement order of annulment, which dealt with property settlement, Baltasar acknowledged Heffelfinger as his biological daughter.

Heffelfinger designated the annulment order, Baltasar’s unsworn July 2003 petition for leave to make gifts in guardianship, which identifies her as Joseph’s sister, a 2003 birthday card he signed as “dad,” a 2004 sworn petition for the appointment of administrator, which identifies her as Joseph’s half-sister, and a 2007 siblingship report stating Heffelfinger and another brother, Tony, have a 98.1 percent probability of being half-siblings.

I.C. Section 29-1-2-7(b)(4) applies to the instant case, which requires for Heffelfinger to inherit from Joseph that the putative father marries the mother of the child and acknowledges the child to be his own.

The designated evidence was sufficient to show that Baltasar acknowledged Heffelfinger as his biological daughter. However, she was unable to show that she was a child born out of wedlock. To be born out of wedlock, the mother must be unmarried when the child is born or married when the child is born, but not to the child’s biological father.

Heffelfinger didn’t show her mother’s marital status at the time of her birth. Baltasar’s acknowledgment of Heffelfinger alone doesn’t establish him as her biological father, wrote Judge Vaidik. There is a marriage, but bare acknowledgement of paternity. In addition, the siblingship report only shows a 98.1 percent probability she is the half-sibling of Tony. Under the statute controlling paternity, if the result of the test is at least a 99 percent probability the man is the father, then it’s presumed he is the biological father.

The judges also rejected Heffelfinger’s argument that Baltasar’s acknowledgment of her in the 2005 annulment order is definitive in establishing paternity. It appears her argument is one of collateral estoppel. The parties’ acknowledgment of Heffelfinger as Baltasar’s biological daughter is gratuitous because the subject matter of the order is a property settlement and because the annulment court will never determine issues of custody and support for Heffelfinger, wrote the judge. The court remanded for further proceedings.
 

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