Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Parent With No Legal Duty To Support Deceased Child Does Not Forfeit Share of Intestate Estate
In Estate of Small v. Small, the issue involved the alleged forfeiture of a parent's share in his child's estate where his child died without a will. The question before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was "whether an adult decedent, who became disabled after reaching the age of majority, was a dependent child for purposes of the Pennsylvania Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code's forfeiture statute."
The decedent was 18 when he was shot and became a paraplegic. The decedent died almost twenty years later at the age of 37, with no spouse and no children. Decedent's mother was granted letters of administration. The decedent's estate was made up of only a $90,000 wrongful-death award.
Decedent's mother filed a forfeiture petition, arguing that decedent's father forfeited his share of the estate by failing to perform his duty of support.
The main issue was whether decedent was considered a "dependent child". The evidence presented showed that decedent was able to perform all of the ordinary life activities, except for walking. Witness testimony provided showed that decedent was mostly self-sufficient.
The Pennsylvania Orphan's Court denied decedent's mother's petition for forfeiture, finding that decedent was not a dependent child. Decedent's mother appealed arguing that the Orphan's Court "narrowed the scope of the phrase 'dependent child'." The Superior Court affirmed and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted further review.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the mother failed to demonstrate that the decedent was a dependent child and that the father had a duty of care.
See, Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Parent With No Legal Duty To Support Deceased Child Does Not Forfeit Share of Intestate Estate, Probate Stars, July 31, 2020.