The Appellate Group

In re Estate of John Clifford Heater

In re Estate of John Clifford Heater, 2020 UT App 70 (Orme, J.)


Father died, leaving two known children who were his heirs. Several years after his death, a previously unknown child—Son—intervened in Father’s probate action to assert his right as an heir in the case. Son was born to the mother while the mother was married to another man. The district court allowed Son to intervene. Son filed a summary judgment motion seeking a determination that Father was his biological father, and he supported that motion with a DNA test. The court granted Son’s summary judgment motion. An heir appealed. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:

  • The Utah Uniform Parentage Act, Utah Code § 78B-15-203, is subordinate to other statutes that provide their own definition of a parent-child relationship for specific purposes. The Probate Code is one of those statutes, and it governs the definition of the parent-child relationship for intestate succession purposes. Utah Code § 75-2-114(1). Unlike the Uniform Parentage Act, the Probate Code defines the parent-child relationship irrespective of marital status.
  • The one-set-of-parents rule does not apply here. The Probate Code establishes a one-set-of-parents rule that operates to prohibit adopted children from taking by intestacy from both their natural parents and their adoptive parents. Utah Code § 75-2-114(2). But there is no statutory language suggesting that the one-set-of-parents rule is applicable where the decedent is the descendant’s biological—but not legal—parent. Rather, the one-set-of-parents rule only applies to limited adoption scenarios. Although the conclusion that a child can inherit from two sets of parents—the legal presumptive parents and the biological parents—is bizarre, the Uniform Law Commission has proposed a revision to the Probate Code that would resolve this issue, but the Utah Legislature has not yet adopted that revision. Thus, Son can inherit from both his legal father (the husband of his mother) and his biological father (Father).

Read the full court opinion