Kristi Ashworth, Trainee Legal Executive in the Estate and Trust Dispute Team discusses how paternity tests play a role in Inheritance claims.

DNA Tests are not just for Criminal Cases

Thanks to great crime dramas, it seems that we are all familiar with DNA and have some idea of how it works.  Questions of paternity can often arise after someone dies, and frequently do when there is a child or other relative claiming to be entitled to  a share of the deceased’s Estate.  What you may not know, are the different types of DNA tests that are available to help determine parentage and other familial relationships.

If your paternity, or that of other family relations, is being disputed there are several DNA tests that can be undertaken which could assist with your claim and thus help you succeed in securing your rightful inheritance as follows:

  • Maternity DNA test
  • Grandparent DNA test
  • Sibling (full sibling or half sibling) DNA test
  • Aunt/Uncle DNA test
  • Y-STR Genetic Test (or Y-Chromosome DNA test)  - males only, to show male lineage

Painless Procedure

DNA tests are painless and can be undertaken using saliva swabs or hair samples; blood tests are not necessary.  If other family members who could participate in DNA testing refuse, it may be possible to ask the Court to make an adverse inference (that the DNA test is likely to result in your favour) as a result of that refusal or, in extreme circumstances, it can be arranged for DNA samples to be taken from the remains of the Deceased.

Scientific Advances

A Y-Chromosome test is a much more recent development in the science of DNA testing which can be used as an alternative to the more traditional options listed above if you have male heirs in the family willing to participate in a test to assist your case. It can also be performed in conjunction with one or other of the more traditional tests to support the findings. The Y-Chromosome test doesn’t show direct paternity but it shows with certainty whether two individuals share the same male lineage – which can amount to the same thing if you are sure, for example, that a grandfather or uncle couldn’t be the father.

If family members continue in their refusal to accept the result of the test(s) then an application to the Court can be made for a Declaration of Parentage under section 55A of the Family Law Act 1986 which is binding on all institutions, and thus would bind a Personal Representative of an Estate to distribute inheritance according to the findings of the Court as to your paternity.

The Pringle Baronets of Stichill

In the very interesting case of the Baronetcy of Pringle of Stichill (referral under section 4 of the Judicial Committee Act 1833)[2016] UKPC 16, the Privy Council considered the reliability of a Y-Chromosome DNA test to determine the rightful heir to the Baronetcy of Pringle of Stichill. Although decided in the context of Scottish law the Privy Council made clear throughout the judgment that the outcome would have been no different under English law.

In this case, there were two claimants, Simon Robert Pringle (“Simon”) and Norman Murray Archibald MacGregor Pringle (“Murray).  Each maintained that he was the rightful heir to the Baronetcy.  Following a Y-Chromosome test (which was conducted for unrelated reasons), the results showed that the profile of Simon’s father Steuart (and his brother) did not match that of the profiles for Murray and all of the other male heirs tested in the family.  As such, Murray claimed that Simon was not the rightful heir because Simon’s grandfather Norman (who was enrolled as the ninth baronet) was not the son of the eighth baronet. This meant that the baronetcy had, up to that point, passed down incorrectly to unrelated males since the 8th baronet. Murray claimed that his father was the rightful male heir of the first baronet (the test for enrolment as the current baronet) and, as a result, upon his father’s death it was Murray who was now the male heir of the first baronet.

Confused?

The diagram below illustrates the male lineage of the Pringle family.

 The Baronets of Pringle of Stichill

The Result

The Court accepted expert evidence presented at trial as to the accuracy of Y-Chromosome testing and ruled that the DNA test showed a “high degree of probability” that Norman H Pringle, was not the son of the eighth baronet.  On 27th June 2016 Sir Ronald Steuart Pringle and his son Sir Norman Murray Pringle were admitted onto the Official Roll of the Baronetage, as the rightful 9th and 10th Baronets of Stichill respectively.

The case confirms that the Court will accept the reliability of Y-Chromosome DNA testing (even in the absence of other forms of DNA testing) to make an order relating to an inheritance.

We Can Help

At MW, our mission is “to make quality legal services accessible to everyone” ” including those who seek to prove their entitlement to an inheritance via DNA tests.

Our specialist Estate & Trust Dispute Team are currently assisting several clients in relation to inheritance claims where parentage is being disputed. If you would like more detailed advice on whether a DNA Test and a Declaration of Parentage could help you with your inheritance or would like to take advantage of our FREE CASE REVIEW, call us today on 020 3551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

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