Estate of Heater

In Estate of Heater, 2020 UT App. 70 (Utah App. 2020), the Utah Court of Appeals held that the biological son of the decedent was one of the decedent’s intestate heirs, even though the son’s mother was married to another man at the time of his birth.

The evidence presented to the District Court had clearly established the decedent’s paternity. The Court of Appeals relied on Utah Code § 75-2-114, which states that, “for purposes of intestate succession, … an individual is the child of the individual’s natural parents, regardless of their marital status.” The Court rejected the argument put forth by the decedent’s daughter that section 75-2-114(1) requires reference to the Utah Uniform Parentage Act (the “UUPA”) to determine parentage. Section 75-2-114(1) provides that, for purposes of intestate succession, “[t]he parent and child relationship may be established as provided in [the UUPA].” The UUPA, at Section 78B-15-204(1)(a), provides: “A man is presumed to be the father of a child if … he and the mother of the child are married to each other and the child is born during the marriage.” To the contrary, the Court ruled that the word “may” permitted the use of DNA and other evidence, irrespective of the UUPA. Moreover, the Court noted, the UUPA expressly states that it does not apply where another law of this state specifically provides otherwise. The Court also rejected the daughter’s argument that the “one set of parents” rule, which applies to intestate succession in some contexts in the adoption arena, should apply to this case, as well.

For a discussion of intestate succession in Utah, see “Basic Estate Planning Information” on the home page of this website.

Rust Tippett is the author of this blog post.

Copyright 2020 UNLEPI, LLC, a Utah limited liability company.  All Rights Reserved.

This blog post in no way creates an attorney-client relationship between the reader and either Robert S. (Rust) Tippett or Bennett Tueller Johnson & Deere, LLC.  The reader should consult with his or her own estate planning attorney regarding his or her particular circumstances.

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