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What happens if a father dies before establishing paternity?

On Behalf of | Oct 9, 2019 | Family Law |

When a child’s parents aren’t married, legal paternity isn’t automatic. While there are several ways that paternity can be established under North Carolina law, there are situations where a father dies before that paternity is established.

If that happens, what can you do? Here’s what you need to know:

1. You need to act quickly to press your paternity suit

Technically, a paternity suit can be brought any time before a child turns 18 years of age — unless the alleged father is deceased. In those situations, you have at most one year from the date of the alleged father’s death. That only applies, however, when the administrator of the alleged father’s estate hasn’t yet begun probate proceedings to settle the estate.

If the administrator of the alleged father’s estate does initiate proceedings to settle it, you only have a maximum of 90 days to file a claim (much like any creditor of the estate).

2. You may also have to take unusual steps

There’s another reason that it is smart to act fast if your child’s father passed away: You now have a more limited route to establish paternity. You will need a DNA sample from the alleged father to match against your child’s DNA in order to win your paternity case.

Since the DNA evidence needs to be properly collected, you may have to try to stop the disposal of the deceased’s body until the genetic material can be collected. Obviously, that’s not an action you can afford to delay.

3. There are several reasons to proceed, despite the difficulty

Establishing paternity could entitle your child to a share of the deceased’s estate. Even if there is no estate, a paternity determination may grant your child Social Security benefits on the deceased’s father’s record. The financial assistance you obtain that way can help you provide for the child’s needs as he or she grows into adulthood.

If you need help establishing your child’s paternity, reach out to an experienced attorney for a consultation today.


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