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Sheppard v. Junes

Supreme Court of Virginia

April 17, 2014

JASON H. SHEPPARD, JR.
v.
LINDA JUNES, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF JOHN WARREN SHEPPERD

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF ARLINGTON COUNTY. William T. Newman, Jr., Judge.

Andrea Sullivan Gould (Andrew G. Mauck; Mauck Law, on briefs), for appellant.

James McConville for appellee.

OPINION

Page 410

[287 Va. 401] Present: All the Justices

LEROY F. MILLETTE, JR., JUSTICE.

In this appeal we consider the impact of a half-blood relative on the distribution of the paternal side of an intestate estate when all of the heirs are collaterals[1] and the estate must be separated into paternal and maternal parts.

I. Facts and Proceedings

John Warren Shepperd died without having executed a will. In life, John never married and had no children. At the time of his death, John's parents and older sister had predeceased him. John's older sister had no children.

Linda Junes was appointed administrator of John's estate. Linda identified fourteen second cousins from John's maternal side, including Linda herself, who survived John's death. These fourteen second cousins stand

Page 411

in equal relation to John, and they do not dispute that, [287 Va. 402] among themselves, they are entitled to equal 1/14 shares of whatever interest they collectively have in John's estate. After certification by a genealogical research firm, Linda also accepted Jason H. Sheppard, Jr., as John's half-uncle from John's paternal side who survived John's death.

Linda, in her capacity as administrator, filed a motion for aid and direction in the Circuit Court of Arlington County. Linda sought judicial assistance to determine the proper distribution proportions of John's estate according to Virginia's statutory scheme governing intestate succession because Jason's half-blood status complicated the task. In particular, Linda sought assistance to determine whether either (1) Jason could take the entirety of John's estate that was to pass to John's paternal side, because Jason was the only relative on John's paternal side, or (2) Jason could only take one-half of John's estate that was to pass to John's paternal side, and the remainder was to be distributed to the fourteen second cousins, because half-bloods can only take half of the inheritance of whole-bloods.

After a hearing on the issue, the circuit court held that, because of Jason's half-blood status, Jason could only take a one-half share of John's estate that was to pass to John's paternal side, and the remainder of John's entire estate was to go to the fourteen maternal second cousins. The court then entered a final order memorializing that ruling, citing Code § § 64.2-202(B) and 64.2-203(B) in support of its decision.

Jason timely filed a petition for appeal with this Court. We granted two assignments of error:

1. The trial court erred when it held that the sole collateral heir on the paternal side of an intestate estate is limited to only one-half of the paternal share because he is a half-blood relative of the decedent, and that the other half of the paternal share shall be distributed to all other heirs on the maternal side.
2. The trial court erred when it applied Virginia Code Section 64.2-203(B), which prohibits " double inheritance" by an heir who is related to the decedent on both the maternal and paternal side, to a situation where a half-blood heir is only related to the decedent on the paternal side.

[287 Va. 403] II. ...


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