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Paternity testing: Deceased Fathers

Updated on March 3, 2013

Can I do a paternity test if the alleged father is deceased?

Paternity testing is quite straightforward when the alleged father is around and there to provide his DNA samples, but what happens if the father is dead? How do you collect DNA samples? Does it make a difference what type of samples to collect if the alleged father is buried or maybe still waiting to be buried?

Paternity testing gets more tedious if the father whose samples are required for the test (the alleged father) is dead. There are options and alternatives which you may consider in this case in order to help you get the answer to that momentous question: who is the biological father of this child? Or is this dead man the biological father of X?

The image to the left shows a human femur bone. This is one the longest and strongest bones in the body, commonly referred to your thigh bone. In cases of post-mortem paternity testing, osseous remains are used to collect DNA samples - the femur bone is one of the two bones used.

The Alleged father is of recently dead. Not yet Buried

You may need to get a court order for an exhumation
You may need to get a court order for an exhumation

In this case you can probably collect the necessary samples yourself or get a forensic pathologist to do the job which is a better idea and actually will probably be recommended in such cases where there is a court case that will follow. In Such cases nails, of both fingers and toes, or even plucked hairs will do for the paternity test. If you are not a legally recognised member of the deceased man's family, getting DNA samples from the deceased will likely require a court case and a court order for a DNA test.

Requests for Exhumations

In many countries any exhumation will need the consent of the living relatives of the deceased. You must bear in mind that if there are any financial interests (perhaps an inheritance), your request for the exhumation (as a non-blood relative) may be declined.

DNA testing between living relatives of the deceased can help you discover whether you are related to the dead person - if they accept of course!
DNA testing between living relatives of the deceased can help you discover whether you are related to the dead person - if they accept of course!

The second case: The father has been buried

Exhumations are often very problematic. In some countries, virtually impossible. Luckily, there are more simple alternatives. A whole range of relationship DNA tests can be used for just this end; establishing paternity without actually testing the alleged father. If both the alleged father's parents are available for testing, the alleged father's DNA profile can be reconstructed by scientists. All they need is then a DNA sample of the alleged child. Aunts and uncle of the alleged father can also be tested in an avuncular DNA test; If a DNA test shows my father's brother to be genetically related to me, then it means that my father is definitely my biological dad.

Sibling testing can also be done with a high degree of accuracy. A DNA test can clearly show whether siblings share a biological father. Depending on the sex of the siblings, the type of test and the testing methodology will be different. Two males who wish to determine whether they have the same dad can do a Y chromosome test- if their Y chromosome profiles match, it means that they share a common paternal line.

If the body has been buried and there are no relatives left then you will need an exhumation of the body. In this case, a forensic pathologist will collect the DNA samples from the corpse. The DNA samples taken will be from the humerus (long bone in the upper arm) or femur

(thigh bone)- these samples would weigh around 2 grams.

If a DNA test proves you are the child of the deceased, then you too will be entitled to a share!!!

DNA testing following the exhumation of Richard the III

A different scenario but the idea is very much the same as the behind post-mortem paternity testing. This Youtube Video provides information about the exhumation and identification of 500 year old remains. DNA testing has shown these very old reamins to be those of the King Richard III.

Amazon- some great books on forensic science for those keen to learn more

What is your take on this?

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Very interesting topic! It took me a minute to figure out why anyone would want to prove to be a dead man's child.... until I realized this would mean they could be entitled to part of the deceased estate, etc.

    • starfish26666 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Glad you enjoyed the lens

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great advice for someone that needs a paternity test regardless if the father is alive or not.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens, i like it.


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