Law School Case Brief
In re Estate of Prince - 901 N.W.2d 234 (Minn. Ct. App. 2017)
Under the Uniform Probate Code, Minn. Stat. § 524.1-201(22) (2016), in the event that a father-child relationship is established under the paternity presumption, the child can only have one genetic father: the man for whom that father-child relationship has been established under the presumption. When a claimant, in seeking to establish a genetic relationship to a decedent, asserts that the decedent's father is someone other than the decedent's presumed genetic father, that claimant necessarily challenges the presumed genetic father's status.
Decedent Prince Rogers Nelson was born in June of 1958 with his birth certificate listing Mattie Della Shaw and John L. Nelson as his parents. Mattie Della Shaw and John L. Nelson married in 1957 but divorced in 1968. The district court identified Decedent and Tyka Nelson as children of Mattie Della Shaw and John L. Nelson in their marriage-dissolution proceeding. John L. Nelson died on August 5, 2001. Probate records identify Decedent, Lorna Nelson, Sharon Blakely, Norrine Nelson, John R. Nelson, and Tyka Nelson as the children of John L. Nelson. Decedent died on April 21, 2016, in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Five days later, Tyka Nelson filed a "Petition for Formal Appointment of Special Administrator" regarding decedent's estate, which alleged, inter alia, that Tyka Nelson was a sibling of decedent and that John R. Nelson, Norrine Nelson, Sharon Nelson, Alfred Jackson, Omarr Baker, and Lorna Nelson were half-siblings of Decedent. The district court granted Tyka Nelson's petition and appointed Bremer Trust the special administrator of Decedent's estate. Thereafter, the district court approved the special administrator’s proposed “Protocol Prior to Potential Genetic Testing.” The protocol provided that any party claiming a genetic relationship to the Decedent that may give rise to heirship was required to submit an affidavit and completed "Request for Parentage Information" questionnaire.
Subsequently, appellants Darcell Gresham Johnston, Loya Janel Wilson, Loyal James Gresham III, and Orrine Gresham (Gresham appellants) and Venita Jackson Leverette submitted affidavits of heirship and parentage information questionnaires to the special administrator pursuant to the protocol. Gresham appellants claimed that they were half-siblings of Decedent through Loyal James Gresham Jr., who they alleged was Decedent's father. Leverette claimed that she was a half-sibling of Decedent through Alfred Jackson, who she alleged was Decedent's father. The special administrator rejected the appellants' claims, arguing that since Mattie Della (Shaw) and John Lewis Nelson were married when Decedent was born, they were presumed to be the Decedent’s genetic parents. The district court excluded appellants as heirs as a matter of law, holding that John L. Nelson was the presumed, genetic and adjudicated father of the Decedent. Gresham appellants and Leverette appealed separately, arguing that the district court erred by using a paternity presumption under the Minnesota Parentage Act to determine that appellants were not heirs of Decedent as a matter of law under the Uniform Probate Code.
Did the district court err in excluding appellants as heirs as a matter of law?
The district court did not err in excluding appellants as heirs. Because John L. Nelson was Decedent's presumptive father under the parentage act, he was the only person who can be Decedent's "genetic father" under the probate code. The two individuals that Gresham appellants and Leverette, respectively, alleged were Decedent's real biological father thus cannot be Decedent's "genetic father" under thde probate code. Under the probate code, a parent-child relationship exists between Decedent and his "genetic parents" and Decedent's "genetic father" was a parent of Decedent for the purpose of intestate succession. John L. Nelson was therefore Decedent's father for the purpose of intestate succession and the estate passes to his surviving descendants and Mattie Della Shaw's surviving descendants. Appellants did not allege that they are descendants of John L. Nelson or Mattie Della Shaw. Appellants were therefore not heirs of decedent as a matter of law based on the plain language of the relevant parentage act and probate code provisions.
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