Trusts and Estates

Estate of Martino

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Cite as D080846
Filed October 18, 2023
Fourth District, Div. One

By Michelle Barnett Batista
Aaron, Riechert, Carpol & Riffle, APC

Headnote:  Intestate Succession by Stepchild ‚Äď Presumed Parentage

Summary:  A stepchild may establish a right to intestate succession where the decedent receives the child into their home and openly holds out the stepchild as their natural child.

Decedent died intestate and his stepson from a previous marriage, Nick, petitioned to be deemed an heir.  Nick conceded that he could not establish that a legal barrier to adoption persisted until Decedent‚Äôs death and instead, sought to establish heirship on the ground that Decedent openly held Nick out as his natural child.  Decedent‚Äôs biological children objected.  The probate court determined that Decedent‚Äôs biological children failed to rebut the presumption of parentage and that Decedent was Nick‚Äôs ‚Äúnatural parent‚ÄĚ for purposes of intestate succession.

The appellate court affirmed.  Nick had standing to pursue heirship even though he was not Decedent‚Äôs biological son.  The intestacy provisions of the Probate Code define natural parentage for purposes of intestate succession to include presumed parentage that is not rebutted under the Uniform Parentage Act.  Therefore, a stepchild may establish a right to intestate succession if the presumed parent receives the child into their home and openly holds the child out as their natural child.  Probate Code section 6454 (requiring stepchild to establish persisting legal barrier to adoption) is not the exclusive path to heirship for an unadopted stepchild.  Finally, Nick was not judicially estopped from claiming Decedent was his ‚Äúnatural parent‚ÄĚ because he claimed that his biological father was his ‚Äúnatural father‚ÄĚ in a separate probate proceeding.

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