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In Re Estate of Karas

OPINION FILED JUNE 2, 1975.

IN RE ESTATE OF LOUIS KARAS. — (MARY SODERMARK, APPELLANT,

v.

EVANGELIA KARAS, APPELLEE.) — IN RE ESTATE OF ROBERT WOODS. — (MARGARET MARIE COLLINS, APPELLANT,

v.

ADDIE WHEELER, ADM'R, APPELLEE.)



No. 46986. — Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. John J. Hogan, Judge, presiding.

No. 47092. — Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. John J. Hogan, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE KLUCZYNSKI DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Mary Reardon Hooton, of Chicago, for appellant.

Schwartzberg, Barnett & Schwartzberg, Goodman, Krasner & Kipnis, and Zaidenberg, Hoffman & Schoenfeld, all of Chicago (Benjamin H. Cohen and Hugh J. Schwartzberg, of counsel), for appellee.

Devereux Bowly and Charles Linn, Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, and James Weill and Jane Stevens, Legal Assistance Foundation, all of Chicago (John Henry Schlegel, of Buffalo, New York, and Joseph Bomba (law student), of counsel), for amicus curiae Deta Mona Trimble and Jessie Trimble.

These consolidated appeals present the common issue of whether an acknowledged illegitimate child may inherit from her father who died intestate never having married the child's mother. A subsidiary issue involves the right of an illegitimate to be appointed the administrator of the estate under these circumstances.

The relevant sections of the Probate Act read as follows:

"Sec. 12. Illegitimates.

An illegitimate child is heir of his mother and of any maternal ancestor, and of any person from whom his mother might have inherited, if living; and the lawful issue of an illegitimate person shall represent such person and take, by descent, any estate which the parent would have taken, if living. A child who was illegitimate whose parents intermarry and who is acknowledged by the father as the father's child is legitimate." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 3, par. 12.

"Sec. 96. Persons entitled to preference in obtaining letters.) The following persons are entitled to preference in the following order in obtaining the issuance of letters of administration * * *:

(2) The children or any person nominated by them." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 3, par. 96.

In cause No. 46986 Louis Karas died intestate. The circuit court of Cook County entered an order declaring Evangelia Karas, his widow, to be his only heir-at-law. Thereafter Mary Sodermark, petitioner, sought to vacate the order of heirship claiming that she was the child of Louis Karas and Estelle Ross, who never married. The Sodermark petition alleged that Estelle Ross had been institutionalized for psychiatric reasons and apparently upon her release had disappeared. The petition further averred that Mary Sodermark had been acknowledged as the child of Louis Karas and that he had contributed to her support while she lived with an aunt. The petition asserted that Louis Karas and his wife, Evangelia, lived for a time with Mary Sodermark, her husband and family and that Louis Karas had contributed a downpayment to the purchase of the Sodermark's house. The circuit court granted Evangelia's motion to strike and dismiss the Sodermark petition. The appellate court affirmed (In re Estate of Karas, 21 Ill. App.3d 564), and we granted leave to appeal.

In cause No. 47092 Robert Woods died intestate at the age of 81. He left no surviving spouse and no legitimate children or descendants thereof. The circuit court of Cook County determined that there existed certain collateral heirs-at-law of the deceased. Margaret Marie Collins, petitioner, then attempted to obtain letters of administration and a declaration of heirship on her behalf. She asserted in her petition that she was the acknowledged illegitimate daughter of the deceased and a lawful heir to his $37,000 estate. The circuit court sustained ...


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