No Will? It may lead to DNA tests to prove parentage
Earlier this year the Courts directed that Lorraine Freeman, the younger daughter of the late Colin Birtles be DNA-tested, to verify whether she is his biological daughter and thus has an interest in his estate.
Colin Birtles died without leaving a valid Will (intestate) in June 2013, leaving a terraced house in Oldham and a small amount of cash. There were two children born to his wife Veronica in the early sixties, Janice (the elder) and Lorraine. In 1977 they divorced and the ex-wife later died.
The elder sister (Janice) disputed Lorraine's right to any interest in the estate, alleging that Lorraine was not in fact Colin Birtles' biological daughter. Janice had collected a number of witness statements from third parties to the effect that Colin Birtles said as much to several persons during his lifetime.
Accordingly, she wanted Lorraine to submit to a DNA test, which would provide scientific evidence as to whether Birtles was indeed her father. Janice would also be tested, to show whether they were related as full or half-sisters; so would one of the Birtles' nieces, who otherwise has nothing to do with the dispute.
Lorraine refused to consent to the DNA test. She says that not only was her mother married to Colin Birtles at the time of her birth, but her birth certificate names him as the father, creating a common law presumption of their relationship. Moreover, after the Birtles were divorced, Colin Birtles paid maintenance in respect of Lorraine until she was 16 years old.
Ultimately the Judge agreed to grant the order for testing. For the moment, Lorraine cannot be compelled to provide a saliva sample for the DNA test. But the court will draw an adverse inference against her case if she continues to refuse.
This situation and the substantial legal costs involved and the unfortunate publicity, could all have been avoided if there had been a valid Will naming the specific people that Colin Birtles wanted to be the beneficiaries of his estate.
Which is why having a valid up-to-date Will is a small investment to protect your family's wealth.