Case Study: Paternity and Heirship
A recent Indiana court case addressed the issue of paternity related to heirship. In the case, Kimberly was born to Linda who was unmarried at the time. Kimberly’s birth certificate did not list a father.
Linda married Lloyd in 1974, who executed two affidavits: one an Affidavit of Legitimation, in which he attested that he was Kimberly’s natural father, and two an Affidavit Requesting Amendment, in which he requested that his name be placed on Kimberly’s birth certificate as her father. Lloyd and Linda divorced two years later. Linda did not participate in the proceeding other than to sign a document stating that there were no children born of the marriage.
Several years later, Lloyd died intestate (without a Will). Kimberly and Lloyd’s two sisters filed competing petitions for the issuance of letters of administration in Lloyd’s estate. The sisters also filed a petition to determine heirship and a petition for genetic testing. The trial court denied the petition for genetic testing and, after bench trial on heirship, entered judgment in favor of Kimberly as the sole heir of Lloyd’s estate.
The sisters appealed but the Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s decision. First, the Court noted that an order requiring genetic testing is only part of a paternity action. Because the sisters were not seeking to establish paternity, they had no right to petition the trial court to order genetic testing. Rather, the sisters were seeking to contest Kimberly’s claim of heirship.
This claim is governed by an Indiana statute that provides for two conditions: 1. the presumed father marries the mother of the child, and 2. the presumed father acknowledges the child to be his own. The burden of proof rests on the child seeking to inherit from the presumed father to prove these conditions. The record was replete with evidence supporting the trial court’s judgment in favor of Kimberly. Lloyd had married Linda, the mother of Kimberly and he had filed two affidavits attesting that he was Kimberly’s natural father. Therefore, the Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s decision to enter judgment in favor of Kimberly.