Establishing that you are the legal father of one or more children allows you to pursue visitation rights and give your children access to family information and benefits. You also have an important say in determining your family responsibilities. It is important to establish paternity while you are alive and able to make decisions, as North Carolina law does allow, in some circumstances, for another party to pursue paternity even after a presumed father has died.
According to state law, paternity can be filed at any point before a child turns eighteen years old. If the prospective father dies, another party cannot file a paternity action and a judge cannot enter a judgment on the presumed father except if any of a few conditions exist. Sometimes a paternity action is filed when a prospective father is still alive but dies shortly thereafter. However, under state law, the paternity action can still continue since it was filed when the prospective father was living.
Other exceptions have to do with the estate of a presumed father. Sometimes a person assumed to be a father dies and within a year of his death no proceeding of his estate has begun. State law allows for a paternity action to commence during this time period. Even if an estate proceeding did start in the year following the death of the prospective father, another party can use a paternity action to bring claims against the estate.
These provisions allow for a mother of a child to seek support and assets from the estate of a deceased father in certain circumstances, which may interfere with the other estate wishes of the father. This possibility makes it imperative to resolve the question of paternity while you are still alive, as it allows you to personally resolve issues concerning your children and the support they receive.
This article is written to provide general information on paternity issues. Do not interpret it as a substitute for the legal advice a professional attorney provides.