White v. Randolph

Decision Date03 July 1979
Docket NumberNo. 79-5,79-5
Citation13 O.O.3d 3,391 N.E.2d 333,59 Ohio St.2d 6
Parties, 13 O.O.3d 3 WHITE, Admr., Appellee, v. RANDOLPH et al., Appellees, Jackson, Appellant.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Kelly M. Morgan and Joseph Waterman, Columbus, for appellant.


This cause was certified to this court pursuant to Section 3(B)(4), Article IV of the Ohio Constitution, for resolution of the conflict between the judgment of the Court of Appeals for Franklin County, in the cause Sub judice, and the judgment of the Court of Appeals for Cuyahoga County in Green v. Woodard (1974), 40 Ohio App.2d 101, 318 N.E.2d 397. The issue certified for resolution is as follows: "Whether the provisions of R.C. Chapter 2105 denying to one who is illegitimate any right to inherit from the natural father, unless the father has taken certain steps such as Marrying the mother, Acknowledging the child, designating the child as an heir-at-law, adoption, or making a provision in a will, are violative of equal protection as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 2 of the Ohio Constitution."

The unanimous opinion of the Court of Appeals in the cause at bar was written by Judge Robert E. Holmes, now a Justice of this court. In our view, the position taken by Justice Holmes represents the correct one under the instant facts and, therefore, is incorporated at length:

"Holmes, P. J.

"This appeal from a judgment of the Probate Division of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas raises the issue of the constitutionality of Ohio's descent and distribution laws as they apply to illegitimate children. Although this court has previously sustained those statutory provisions in the face of an attack grounded upon the equal protection clause in Moore v. Dague (1975), 46 Ohio App.2d 75, 345 N.E.2d 449, the recent decision in Trimble v. Gordon (1977), 430 U.S. 762, 97 S.Ct. 1459, 52 L.Ed.2d 31, necessitates a review of our prior holding on this issue.

"The facts relevant to this appeal are in brief that Clarence Jackson died testate on January 17, 1975. His will was duly admitted to probate. The will devised all of decedent's property to his wife, but failed to provide for its disposition in the event that she did not survive him. She did not.

"The administrator then brought this action in the Common Pleas Court of Franklin County, Probate Division, for a determination of decedent's heirs-at-law, joining appellant Alice Marie Jackson, who claimed to be decedent's illegitimate daughter, as one of the defendants. Following a hearing on the matter, Judge Metcalf held, as a matter of law, that appellant was not entitled to inherit from the estate of Clarence Jackson because she introduced no evidence tending to show:

" ' * * * that the decedent, alleged father, legitimized his illegitimate daughter, or formally acknowledged his daughter in Probate Court, or adopted such daughter, or provided for her in his will, or designated her as his heir at law * * *.'

"In appellant's sole assignment of error, it is alleged that:

" 'The court erred in determining that an illegitimate child may not inherit from her father's estate unless she was acknowledged to be the child of the decedent in accordance with O.R.C. 2105.18 during the decedent's lifetime.'

"In this appeal, appellant argues that the provisions of that chapter, R.C. Chapter 2105, as applied to her, violate her right to equal protection of the laws. Specifically, appellant relies upon Trimble v. Gordon, supra, and Green v. Woodard (1974), 40 Ohio App.2d 101, 318 N.E.2d 397, in support of her proposition that the Ohio intestacy laws invidiously discriminate against illegitimate children.

"In Ohio, a child born out of wedlock is capable of inheriting from and through his mother, R.C. 2105.17, but may inherit from his father only under certain circumstances. As pointed out in Moore, supra, the father may legitimatize an illegitimate child by afterwards marrying the mother of the illegitimate child and acknowledging the child as his, R.C. 2105.18. Further, the natural father of an illegitimate child may confer upon such child a right of inheritance from such father by several means: (1) by formal acknowledgement in Probate Court that the child is his with consent of the mother (R.C. 2105.18); (2) by designating the illegitimate child as his heir-at-law (R.C. 2105.15); (3) by adopting the illegitimate child; and (4) by making a provision for the child in his will.

"Appellant concededly cannot meet any of the above criteria. However, appellant contends that the equal protection clause requires that she be permitted to inherit from decedent if she can establish with sufficient competent evidence that decedent is, in fact, her father. In the cases considering this general issue before us, it has been rather uniformly pointed out that the rationality of the classification must be examined in light of the legitimate state purposes to which it is related.

"It has long been recognized in Ohio that proof of paternity, especially after the death of the alleged father, is difficult, and peculiarly subject to abuse. One of the resultants of such abuse would be the instability of land titles of real estate left by intestate fathers of illegitimate children.

"The Supreme Court of the United States had previously recognized the stability of land titles as constituting a substantial state interest in the cases of Labine v. Vincent (1971), 401 U.S. 532, 91 S.Ct. 1017, 28 L.Ed.2d 288, and Weber v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. (1972), 406 U.S. 164, 92 S.Ct. 1400, 31 L.Ed.2d 768. The Supreme Court reaffirmed this view in Trimble, supra, where in the opinion of Mr. Justice Powell, at footnote 12, page 1464, is to be found the following:

" ' * * * In Weber v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 406 U.S. 164, 92 S.Ct. 1400, 31 L.Ed.2d 768 (1972), we found in Labine a recognition that judicial deference is appropriate when the challenged statute involves the "substantial state interest in providing for the stability of * * * land titles and in the prompt and definitive determination of the valid ownership of property left by decedents, * * * " 406 U.S., at 170, 92 S.Ct., at 1404, quoting Labine v. Vincent, 229 So.2d 449, 452 (La.App.1969). We reaffirm that view, but there is a point beyond which such deference cannot justify discrimination. Although the proposition is self-evident, Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71, 92 S.Ct. 251, 30 L.Ed.2d 225 (1971), demonstrates that state statutes involving the disposition of property at death are not immunized from equal protection scrutiny. * * * '

"In Trimble, supra, the court struck down section 12 of the Illinois Probate Act which allowed an illegitimate child to inherit from his father only if the parents intermarried and the child was acknowledged by the father. The petitioner in Trimble had been previously adjudged to be the daughter of the decedent in an action for support brought during the decedent's lifetime. The court held that the statutorily excluded class under Illinois law was over-inclusive in failing to allow those persons with a prior adjudication or formal acknowledgment of paternity to inherit. The court pointed out that in effect the Illinois law excluded All illegitimate children from inheriting from their father in that the sole provision for their being able to inherit would entail the marriage of the parents, and acknowledgement of the child by the father, which acts would legitimatize the child.

"The Supreme Court, in Trimble, recognized a middle ground between the extremes of complete exclusion and case-by-case determination of paternity that could allowably be included within state legislation. The court stated as follows, at page 1465 of the opinion:

" 'The more serious problems of proving paternity might justify a more demanding standard for illegitimate children claiming under their fathers' estates than that required either for illegitimate children claiming under their mothers' estates or for legitimate children generally. We think, however, that the Illinois Supreme Court gave inadequate consideration to the relation between Section 12 and the State's proper objective of assuring accuracy and efficiency in the disposition of property at death. The court failed to consider the possibility of a middle ground between the extremes of complete exclusion and case-by-case determination of paternity. For at least some significant categories of illegitimate children of intestate men, inheritance rights can be recognized without jeopardizing the orderly settlement of estates or the dependability of titles to property passing under intestacy laws. Because it excludes those categories of illegitimate children unnecessarily, Section 12 is constitutionally flawed.'

"As noted, Trimble, supra, raised the question of whether the class which was discriminated against was over-inclusive in light of the avowed statutory purpose. The court answered in the affirmative. While we may envision situations in which persons placed within certain statutory classes may be victims of invidious discrimination, we do not believe that appellant has presented such a situation under the Ohio statutes in the case at bar.

"In conformity with the dictates of Trimble, we believe that the Ohio statutory provisions present a reasonable middle ground for the recognition of certain categories of illegitimate children of intestate men. Through these laws inheritance rights may be reasonably recognized without jeopardizing the orderly settlement of estates or the dependability of titles to property passing under intestate laws.

"Clearly, the Ohio classification scheme is rationally related to the legitimate state purpose of assuring efficient disposition of property at death while avoiding spurious claims. Moreover, the Ohio provisions do not discriminate between legitimate and illegitimate children Per...

To continue reading

Request your trial
37 cases
  • Brookbank v. Gray
    • United States
    • Ohio Supreme Court
    • January 17, 1996
    ...can in no respect affect the right of action in his behalf." Id. at paragraph two of the syllabus. Later, in White v. Randolph (1979), 59 Ohio St.2d 6, 13 O.O.3d 3, 391 N.E.2d 333, appeal dismissed sub nom. Jackson v. White (1980), 444 U.S. 1061, 100 S.Ct. 1000, 62 L.Ed.2d 743, the court he......
  • Young v. Secretary of Health and Human Services
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit
    • April 8, 1986
    ...the illegitimate child as his heir-at-law, adopted the illegitimate child, or provided for the child in his will. White v. Randolph, 59 Ohio St.2d 6, 391 N.E.2d 333 (1979), app. dismissed sub nom. Jackson v. White, 444 U.S. 1061, 100 S.Ct. 1000, 62 L.Ed.2d 743 (1980); Ohio Rev.Code Secs. 21......
  • Powell v. Williams
    • United States
    • Ohio Court of Appeals
    • February 24, 2022
    ...of the law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment or Article I, Section 2, of the Ohio Constitution. White v. Randolph , 59 Ohio St.2d 6, 11, 391 N.E.2d 333 (1979) ; Brookbank v. Gray , 74 Ohio St.3d 279, 287, 658 N.E.2d 724 (1996) (differentiating the equal protection analysis regarding......
  • Erbe, Matter of
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • June 27, 1990
    ...stated: As evidenced by the recent United States Supreme Court decisions, as well as the Ohio Supreme Court decision in White v. Randolph , 391 N.E.2d 333 (1979) the bottom line to denying an illegitimate child equal inheritance rights is that there is a substantial problem of proof of pate......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT