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In re Estate of Hooper

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

November 20, 2013

IN RE: ESTATE OF ROBERT A. HOOPER, DECEASED APPEAL OF: DEAN R. HOOPER, JR., LINDA HOOPER AND RONALD HOOPER

Appeal from the Order Entered May 29, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County Orphans' Court at No(s): 2003 OC 351

Joseph D. Seletyn, Esq.

BEFORE: SHOGAN, J., LAZARUS, J., and MUSMANNO, J.

OPINION

LAZARUS, J.

Dean R. Hooper, Jr., Linda Hooper, and Ronald Hooper (collectively, "Putative Heirs") appeal from the order entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County, Orphans' Court Division, granting summary judgment in favor of Appellee Gladys D. Hooper ("Gladys") and concluding that, as a matter of law, the sole beneficiary of the Estate of Robert A. Hooper, Deceased ("Robert's Estate"), is the Estate of Vincent C. Hooper, Deceased ("Vincent's Estate"). We affirm.

This Court has previously set forth the relevant familial and procedural history in this case as follows:

Dean Hooper, Sr. ("Dean Sr.") and [Grace] were married in 1923. Grace had two children during the marriage, [Vincent], born in 1923 or 1924, and [Robert], born in 1926. Robert's birth certificate listed Dean Sr. as his father. Dean Sr. and Grace separated in 1930 and eventually divorced in 1940. Dean Sr. then married Gertrude Resig. The couple had a son, Dean, and adopted two children, Ronald and Linda.
On July 11, 2003, Robert died intestate. On July 31, 2003, the co-Administrators of the [e]state filed a [p]etition for probate and grant of letters listing Vincent and Dean as the heirs of the Estate. Vincent died on April 6, 2004, and his surviving widow, Gladys, was the sole beneficiary of [his] estate. On July 27, 2004, the co-[a]dministrators of the [e]state filed a [p]etition wherein they asserted that Robert's only intestate heir was Vincent. The co-[a]dministrators indicated that they had ordered a DNA test to determine the paternity of Robert. The results of the DNA test demonstrated that Robert was not the natural son of Dean Sr. Therefore, Vincent and Robert were half-brothers and Dean was not a lawful heir to [Robert's] [e]state.
In response, Dean, Ronald, and Linda filed objections to this proposal, arguing that they were entitled to a share of the [e]state because Dean Sr. should be considered Robert's father under the presumption of paternity doctrine.
On January 7, 2005, the Orphans' Court issued an Order holding that the presumption of paternity doctrine applied [and] could only be rebutted by a showing of non-access or impotence. Gladys filed an omnibus [m]otion, requesting that the Orphans' Court reconsider the January 7, 2005 Order. The Orphans' Court held a conference wherein it determined that it would allow testimony by DNA experts and scheduled a hearing for June 16, 2005.
At the hearing, Gladys introduced two DNA experts who testified that Dean Sr. was not Robert's father. Dean, Ronald, and Linda presented no countervailing evidence at the hearing. Instead, they relied upon the Orphans' Court's January 7, 2005 Order indicating that the presumption of paternity applied. On February 26, 2006, the Orphans' Court issued an Order reaffirming its January 7, 2005 Order. The [e]state filed a [p]etition seeking permission to appeal this Order to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. This [p]etition was denied by the Superior Court on May 3, 2006.
Following this Court's denial of the [p]etition to pursue an appeal, the Orphans' Court ordered the co-[a]dministrators of the [e]state to file a revised accounting of the [e]state. The co-[a]dministrators filed the accounting and again determined that Vincent's estate was the sole heir of the [e]state. All of the relevant parties filed objections to the accounting. The Orphans' Court held a two-day hearing on the objections. Thereafter, the Orphans' Court entered an Order on January 16, 2008, wherein it held that the presumption of paternity doctrine applied in this case and that the [e]state should be equally divided between Dean, Ronald, Linda and Gladys. The Orphans' Court then certified this Order as final and appealable. Gladys filed a timely [n]otice of appeal.

Estate of Hooper, 595 WDA 2008, at 1-3 (Pa.Super. filed July 23, 2009) (unpublished memorandum).

On appeal, Gladys argued that the presumption of paternity doctrine was inapplicable because "the main policy behind the presumption, the preservation of a marriage, is not present in this case." Id. at 5. See Brinkley v. King, 701 A.2d 176 (Pa. 1997) (holding that presumption of paternity applies only in cases where policies underlying presumption would be advanced by its application). This Court agreed, vacated the order of the Orphans' Court and, citing Strauser v. Stahr, 726 A.2d 1052 (Pa. 1999), [1]remanded with ...


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