Prince Paternity Claims: The Genetic Jackpot?
- May 13, 2016 - Celebrity Estate Battles,
It’s 2016. It’s been 22 years since DNA technology captured the world’s attention in the O.J. Simpson murder case. The death of Prince and the possibility that he died without a will or trust is capturing world attention in an entirely different way. People are coming forward claiming that Prince is their father and they want a DNA test to prove it.
A Minnesota judge has authorized the release and analysis of Prince’s blood to the DNA Diagnostic Center for testing. Just what could this mean? While Minnesota law allows for blood and genetic tests it also has a statutory scheme that address the determination of the father and child relationship in cases where the alleged father has died. If and when a genetic match is made between an alleged child and Prince, Minnesota lawyers will have a number of statutory hurdles between the findings of genetic testing and a final determination of heirship.
I’m a California lawyer – not a Minnesota lawyer. Minnesota lawyers in Minnesota courts will fight the battles, if any, over Prince’s DNA and the possible inheritance of his estate. That said it is interesting to note how California would handle this case.
A California Court of Appeal recently held that an estate claimant did not qualify as a child under California’s intestacy laws even though a court ordered DNA test found a 99.9996 probability of the decedent’s paternity with the claimant. The Court found that the absence of a court order finding paternity during the decedent’s lifetime; the lack of evidence that the decedent ever openly held the claimant out as his child; and no finding of impossibility for the decedent to have held the claimant out as his own child. The impossibility finding is applicable in those cases where the father died before the birth of his child.
The California decision is correct as to current law. A concurring Justice noted the Court was legally constrained in its consideration of DNA evidence. This Justice strongly urged that the California legislature revise the probate code so that a parent child relationship may be established with a deceased parent where during his lifetime the decedent acknowledged – even if not publicly – that the child was his. Such a change would permit children to inherit their part of an intestate estate based on clear and convincing genetic evidence of paternity and clear and convincing evidence that the father, during his lifetime, acknowledged fathering the child.
Scientific advances in genetic testing will ultimately create the need for statutory changes. These changes, while seemingly self-evident, will still need to be tested by and ultimately enacted into law by the legislative process. In the meantime – at least as to California – a 99.9996 probability of paternity is not enough.