Case Study: Paternity Not Required to Determine Heirship
A recent Court case addressed the issue of paternity in relation to inheritance. Kimberly was born in 1968 to Linda, who was unmarried at the time. Kimberly’s birth certificate listed Linda as her mother but did not list her father.
Linda later married Lloyd in 1974. In 1983, Lloyd executed two affidavits stating that he was Kimberly’s natural father and requesting that his name be added to Kimberly’s birth certificate as her father.
Lloyd and Linda divorced in 1985. Linda, not represented by an attorney, signed a document that stated, in part, there were no children born of the marriage. Lloyd later died in 2014 without a Will.
Kimberly and Lloyd’s sisters filed competing petitions with the Court to be appointed Personal Representative of Lloyd’s estate. The sisters also filed a petition for the Court to determine who are Lloyd’s heirs and require genetic testing for Kimberly.
The trial Court denied the petition for genetic testing and ruled that Kimberly was the sole heir of Lloyd’s estate. The sisters appealed.
The appellate Court affirmed the trial Court’s ruling. These types of cases are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. In this case, there was plenty of evidence that Lloyd acknowledged Kimberly as his own daughter.
The sisters pointed to the divorce documents because Linda and Lloyd said they had no children born of their marriage. However, paternity was not litigated at that time. Had it been litigated, then the result would have been binding on Kimberly.
In addition, a Court order for genetic testing is only a part of paternity cases. Since the sisters were not seeking to establish paternity, they had no right to petition the Court for genetic testing. Instead, the sisters were seeking to contest Kimberly’s heirship. This was determined based on the evidence Lloyd had submitted through his affidavits.
When a person dies without a Last Will and Testament, state law determines who inherits what. Sticky issues like this one can end up causing undue stress and unnecessary cost to the family and estate. By comparison, a Will is inexpensive and simple to create. You can state clearly who you want to inherit from your estate and exactly what you want them to get. Rather than leaving things to chance, schedule an appointment online with our experienced attorneys to create your Will.
Thurman and Duncan v. Skinner, 2016 Ind. App. LEXIS 125