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In re Estate of Poole

April 03, 2002

IN RE ESTATE OF MADISON RAE POOLE, DECEASED RANDY L. POOLE, JR., PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
DEBRA JEAN CLAUSEN, ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF MADISON RAE POOLE, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 10th Judicial Circuit, Putnam County, Illinois, No. 98-P-17, Honorable Stuart Borden Judge, Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McDADE

Released for publication April 12, 2002.

IN RE ESTATE OF MADISON RAE POOLE, DECEASED RANDY L. POOLE, JR., PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
DEBRA JEAN CLAUSEN, ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF MADISON RAE POOLE, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE.

Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 10th Judicial Circuit, Putnam County, Illinois, No. 98-P-17, Honorable Stuart Borden Judge, Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McDADE

PUBLISHED

 Randy Poole appeals from the trial court's denial of his petition to revoke letters of administration issued to Debra Jean Clausen. Randy is the acknowledged biological father of a viable fetus (later named Madison Rae Poole) being carried by Debra's daughter, Christina Clausen. Madison was ultimately stillborn as a result of an automobile accident in which Christina was killed. Randy petitioned to revoke the letters of administration following his receipt of notice that Debra had sought leave of court to distribute the estate of Madison. Randy's petitions were ultimately denied because the trial court found that he was not an "eligible parent" under the statute governing inheritance from an illegitimate child and, therefore, lacked standing to challenge the issuance of letters of administration to Debra. Randy appeals.

FACTS

Christina and Randy began living together in August of 1997. Shortly thereafter, the two moved to the State of Virginia. They continued to live together and maintain a conjugal relationship. In October of 1997, Christina became pregnant. The couple then returned to the State of Illinois, where they awaited the birth of their child.

Following their return to Illinois, Christina and Randy continued to live together, but never married. They received emotional support from their respective families, participated in social events as a couple, and held out to their families and friends that Randy was the father of Christina's baby. Also during that time period, neither Christina's nor Randy's family disputed Randy's paternity of the developing fetus.

On May 26, 1998, when Christina was approximately eight months pregnant, she was involved in a head-on automobile collision. Her injuries were fatal, and she was pronounced dead at 7:33 a.m. A caesarean section was performed at 11:20 a.m., and a stillborn child was delivered. Although the child was pronounced dead at 11:20 a.m., Randy christened her Madison Rae Poole and took photographs with her at the hospital.

The Clausen family allegedly acknowledged Randy as the biological father of Madison. They invited him to participate in the selection of the baby's name (which included his surname) and agreed to listing Randy as the father on the fetal death certificate issued by the medical examiner. In addition, the obituary for Madison identified Randy as a survivor.

Debra filed a petition with the Putnam County circuit court for letters of administration for the estate of Madison on or about September 9, 1998. She had apparently been negotiating a settlement regarding the wrongful death of Madison, although she does not appear to have filed an action. Debra attached an affidavit of heirship to the petition, stating that she and John Clausen were the maternal grandparents of Madison and that they were the only persons entitled to administer her estate. Randy asserts that he was unaware at that time of any negotiations regarding Madison's wrongful death or of the petition filed by Debra.

On October 1, 1998, the circuit court of Putnam County entered an order appointing Debra administrator and directing that letters of administration be issued to her for Madison's estate. On November 8, 1999, Debra filed a petition for an order allowing her to execute settlement documents and to distribute to heirs at law. According to the petition, Country Companies had agreed to pay $70,000 (minus expenses) to Madison's estate. Debra was seeking to have the settlement approved by the court and to distribute the settlement funds to John, herself, and Madison's two maternal aunts.

Randy received notice of the hearing on the petition filed by Debra. He responded by filing an affidavit of parentage, in which he explained his relationship with Christina and the circumstances of Madison's conception. Randy also filed a petition requesting revocation of Debra's letters of ...


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