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In Re Estate of Robert R. v. Thomas Renchen

November 30, 2010

IN RE ESTATE OF ROBERT R.
RENCHEN, ROBERT T. RENCHEN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
THOMAS RENCHEN, WILLIAM RENCHEN AND THOMAS RENCHEN, AS GUARDIAN OF VERA RENCHEN,
DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 21st Judicial Circuit, Kankakee County, Illinois.Deceased Honorable Kendall O. Wenzelman, Judge, Presiding.

A.D., 2010

MODIFIED UPON DENIAL OF REHEARING AND APPLICATION FOR CERTIFICATE OF IMPORTANCE JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the opinion of the court:

In this Supreme Court Rule 308 (155 Ill. 2d R. 308) appeal, we must answer the following question certified by the trial court: whether the finding of paternity in a decree of adoption is dispositive of the paternity of the adopted child when no motion to vacate was timely filed in the adoption case and when thereafter a petition to establish alternative paternity was filed in a collateral probate proceeding. We understand that, in a vacuum, that question makes no sense. Generally speaking, an adoption cuts off both the obligations and rights of a natural father. For purposes of inheritance, an adopted child is the child only of his adoptive parents. However, the legislature has created a statutory exception which provides that a person adopted by a descendent of a natural parent's grandparent may inherit from both his adoptive and natural parent. 755 ILCS 5/2--4(d)(1) (West 2006).

Under the facts of this case, we answer the certified question in the negative.

FACTS

Judith York gave birth to Robert Todd York (Todd) on November 21, 1968, during her marriage to Gary York. Ergo, Gary York was Todd's presumptive natural father. Judith and Gary later divorced. Judith (now deceased) then married William Renchen. William is a brother to decedent Robert R. Renchen. William and Judith legally adopted Todd. Todd York became Todd Renchen. An adoption order identifies Gary York as Todd's natural father. The adoption terminated Gary York's parental rights. Todd has never challenged the adoption or any part of it. No one disputes that William Renchen is Todd's adoptive and, therefore, legal father.

Robert Renchen, William's brother, died intestate on April 21, 2007. Todd filed pleadings in the probate court alleging that the decedent, Robert Renchen, was, in fact, his natural father. On June 18, 2007, Todd filed a petition for letters of administration claiming that decedent's heirs were:

Robert Todd Renchen, son Vera Renchen, mother Richard Renchen, brother Thomas Renchen, brother William Renchen, brother On July 16, 2007, Thomas Renchen, another of William's brothers, filed a petition for letters of administration stating that the heirs of Robert R. Renchen were:

Vera Renchen, mother Richard Renchen, brother Thomas Renchen, brother William Renchen, brother Also on July 16, 2007, Thomas and William Renchen filed a motion to strike Todd's petition for letters of administration stating that Todd was adopted on February 8, 1973, in Kankakee County by Judith Renchen, his natural mother, and her husband, William Renchen.

On August 22, 2007, Thomas Renchen, William Renchen and Vera Renchen (appellants) filed a motion for summary judgment stating that Todd was the son of William Renchen by virtue of an adoption in Kankakee County dated February 8, 1973. The motion further stated that: (1) Robert Todd Renchen's mother, Judith, was married to a Gary York on December 11, 1965; (2) Robert Todd York was born to Gary and Judith York on November 21, 1968; (3) Judith York then divorced Gary York and subsequently married William Renchen; (4) William and Judith Renchen then filed a petition to adopt Robert Todd York and that petition was granted on February 8, 1973; and

(5) Robert Todd York was decreed the adopted child of William and Judith Renchen and the child's name was changed to Robert Todd Renchen. Attached to the motion was an affidavit of Judith Renchen and a copy of the decree of adoption. The motion also stated that this order of adoption was dispositive of the paternity of Todd.

On August 1, 2007, Todd filed a motion for summary judgment claiming that he was the natural son of decedent Robert R. Renchen. He attached a DNA test report in support of his motion. On January 9, 2008, Todd filed a counterpetition to determine the existence of a parent-child relationship. We should note that Todd makes reference to the supporting record in his brief. However, the only record filed with this court is 10 pages which include: Todd's two-page motion for summary judgment and which are marked with an "exhibit 1" sticker; the petition for letters of administration filed by Todd in the circuit court; a two-page affidavit of Richard Renchen; a copy of the decree for adoption; and the DNA test report.

Appellants filed a motion for involuntary dismissal of Todd's counterpetition. Further, they filed a motion to strike Todd's motion ...


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