DNA Testing for Paternity After Death

Determining Paternity After Death in Illinois: How to Prove Paternity After the Father Dies

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
October 28, 2019

In this article we will explain how to prove paternity after the alleged father’s death in Illinois.  We will explain DNA testing for paternity after death and DNA testing for paternity through immediate relatives.  

One of our readers asked the following question that inspired this article:

Q: My father passed away leaving no will, and I’m not sure if he ever signed my birth certificate... is there any other way to prove that he is my biological parent?

A: In order to list a father on a birth certificate years after a child’s birth, you must legally prove paternity to the court through a DNA test. Obviously, these circumstances are more difficult with a deceased individual. However, there are a few alternative solutions for DNA testing after death. For individuals searching for a way to prove relation in the court of law, DNA samples can be taken from the deceased individual’s corpse, if he or she is not already buried or cremated. Your father’s immediate family needs to provide consent for any DNA testing on the deceased himself. If burial has occurred, you can request a court-ordered exhumation. If cremation has occurred, you’ll have to settle for DNA testing the deceased individual’s close relatives. While this method may lead to some uncomfortable conversations, it is your best shot at proving paternity. This could be your father’s parents, siblings (your aunt or uncle), or any other confirmed children of your father. Paternity can be determined through these relatives’ DNA samples. Once DNA testing establishes paternity, you can petition the court to have your father’s name added to your birth certificate; you may be able to collect social security benefits from having a deceased father. It’s always a good idea to hire an attorney to help you navigate through the complicated nature of proving paternity through DNA testing.

DNA Testing for Paternity After Death

DNA Test on a Dead Parent in Illinois

In this article, we’ll be reviewing the potential options for DNA testing after death, including circumstances in order to prove biological relation. DNA testing is the most conclusive way of determining paternity or maternity in the eyes of the law. Comparing DNA samples between a child and suspected parent can indicate biological relation within 99.99% accuracy. In order to list a father on a birth certificate years after a child’s birth, you must legally prove paternity to the court through a DNA test. However, DNA testing becomes complicated after an individual passes away. Suddenly, it’s not as easy as swapping the inside of a cheek with a Buccal Swab.

If the deceased person’s body has not been buried or cremated, specific samples can still be taken from the corpse, including hair, fingernail clippings, toothbrushes, stained clothing, blood, used tissues, cigarette butts, etc. If the deceased person has already been cremated, samples can no longer be taken from his or her remains. The intense heat of the cremation process completely destroys all DNA, making it impossible to conduct a paternity or maternity test.

If the deceased person has already been buried, a court-approved exhumation has to take place, which can be tedious. The individual seeking the DNA testing will need to prove the possibility of relation to the alleged parent’s family in order to obtain court approvals. If the request is approved and the corpse is exhumed, a forensic pathologist can test the deceased individual’s femur, humorous, or teeth. This process can be very costly.

If DNA testing the deceased individual isn’t an option, paternity can be determined with the participation of one or more of his immediate biological relatives.

DNA Testing for Paternity Through Immediate Relatives

Paternity tests can now be determined through samples from family members who have genes common to those of the alleged father. This relationship DNA testing is legally admissible in court and often used on the paternal grandparents of the child in question or other close family members, including cousins, siblings, and aunts and uncles. Lab results are court-admissible and can be used for Social Security, inheritance, and immigration cases. If you are conducting DNA testing to establish a father-child relationship, you should inform the responsible laboratory. They can arrange the testing of the other male family members.


The best relatives to test are the alleged father’s biological parents (the child’s grandparents on the paternal side). Testing both parents will help strengthen the accuracy of the result, but even one parent is useful. If neither parent is available for testing, aunts and uncles are also good options, as they share 25% of their DNA with nieces and nephews. Testing can also be conducted on a known child of the alleged parent to see if the two potential siblings are truly related. A sibling test can establish paternity, but a grandparent test is more likely to be conclusive.

Determining Paternity After Death

Once DNA testing establishes paternity, whether through the deceased individual himself or his close relatives, people can petition the court to have a father’s name added to a birth certificate. Navigating the complicated nature of proving paternity through DNA testing can be a long, difficult road. If you are looking to conduct a paternity test after death, we can help you in your time of need.

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