My child’s father died in a terrible accident. How can I prove paternity?

My child’s father died in a terrible accident.  How can I prove paternity?

He recently passed away in a terrible accident. He wasn’t on her birth certificate, but he helped pay for school and bought her anything she said she wanted.

He has an adult daughter from a previous relationship. His family does not know about my daughter’s existence. His relationship with his family was strained, and perhaps for this reason, he did not tell them.

Can I apply for survivor benefits on her behalf? I know that by doing this I will have to talk to his family, and potentially allow them to visit my daughter if they are interested.
I don’t want the insurance money on his life — if he doesn’t leave any to our daughter — but the survivor benefits will help pay for the school he usually helped with.
the mom
Related: ‘He wanted nothing to do with me’: I found out my biological father through Ancestry.com. Am I entitled to a share of his estate?

Dear mom,

Once upon a time in America, children born out of wedlock were disinherited by law. But these laws were effectively struck down in 1968 by the US Supreme Court Levy Vs. Louisiana. However, laws still vary from state to state.
It would be wise to hire a real estate attorney to help you with this process. The statute of limitations varies by state after probate settlement, so time is not on your side. It’s an exhausting process, and you risk putting it off indefinitely if you don’t get the ball rolling today.
The term “survivor benefit” typically refers to a spouse who can claim 100% of his or her spouse’s Social Security, assuming a higher amount, after his or her death. As an heir, your daughter may be entitled to certain benefits and a share of the inheritance, assuming you can prove paternity.

“Within a family, a child can receive up to half of the parent’s full retirement or disability benefits. If a child receives survivor benefits, they can receive up to 75% of the deceased parent’s basic Social Security benefits, according to this step-by-step guide from the Security Administration Social.
If your daughter does not have a disability, SSA survivor benefits will stop when she turns 16, according to the SSA. However, if your daughter has a qualifying disability, your benefits can continue if you exercise parental control and responsibility for your child.
There are, of course, scenarios in which your daughter may be excluded – if he leaves a will that specifically excludes your child. But even if he died intestate – intestate – or even if he left a will and never mentioned your child, you can certainly claim his estate.
For example, in California: “A court will not admit private genetic testing into evidence in a paternity case unless the court orders the testing. If the court orders genetic testing, it will provide said parents with the information they need to administer the tests.”

DNA test

In New York, a child born out of wedlock is considered the mother’s “legitimate child.” But again you must at least provide evidence proving that he is your daughter’s father. It may include witness testimony and payments for the child’s education.
Paternity in New York must be proven “by clear and convincing evidence, which may include, but is not limited to: (1) evidence derived from genetic marker testing, or (2) evidence that the father has expressly and knowingly acknowledged that the child is his.”
Obviously, your case is more complicated due to the tragic circumstances, and may also require DNA testing; In this case, you may have to enlist the help of a relative of your daughter’s father – a parent, sibling or son. This will likely come as a shock to his family.
You will likely need to file a civil lawsuit to establish paternity. It becomes more difficult after the parent dies, and the burden of proof is on you. If his name is not on the birth certificate, records of his payments to your child would be an important example of official evidence.
In Texas, for example, a court may order genetic testing for a relative — including parents, siblings, or children — if the court finds that the circumstances are fair and, as in your case, the parent in question is not available for testing.
“A court may not issue an order under this section unless the court finds that the need for genetic testing outweighs the legitimate interests of the individual to be tested,” according to that state’s paternity law.
People react differently, and his family’s grief may affect how they respond. For example, his adult daughter may be happy to prove that your daughter is her half-sister, and she may see your child as a gift from heaven, as she should do every day.
Maybe the strained relationship between him and his family can be transformed into something completely different. Your daughter could end up with an older sister, in addition to other benefits she may be entitled to. I wish the best for both of you.
You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
The Moneyist regrets that he cannot respond to questions individually.
Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:
‘I was blown away’: My mother-in-law gave me a ‘diamond’ ring. One gemologist said it was fake. What should I do?
“Death and Money Bring Out the Worst in People”: My stepmother wants me to give up my rights to my late father’s estate. What should I do?
“Our American Dream Turned into a Nightmare”: I sold my house, but rising interest rates and prices kept me from entering the market. what can i do?
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