Webber v. Randle (Mississippi 2021)

No. 2020-CA-00433-COA (Miss. Ct. App. 2021)
October 2021

An estate administrator has an obligation to determine the heirs and can challenge paternity. An estate administrator, the widow of the decedent, filed to determine heirship. The decedent had four children: two born during his first marriage, one with the widow, and a child for whom paternity had yet to be established. His widow, the administrator of his estate, filed to determine heirship. The chancery court ordered DNA testing of all four children. The results showed a high probability that the children of the ex-wife and the children of the widow were not related, which meant the decedent was not the biological father of the two children from his first marriage. In its final order, the chancery court found the two children of the first marriage were not heirs at law based on the DNA results. The chancery court provided the children could exhume the father’s body at their cost for additional DNA testing. The children of the first marriage appealed. The appellate court upheld the order. It found the current wife, as administrator of the estate, had a duty to explore all issues surround the estate, including contesting the paternity of possible heirs. While the paternity of the children born of his first marriage was presumed, the presumption was rebuttable. The DNA evidence properly rebutted the presumption. The chancery court didn’t abuse its discretion in comparing the DNA results to get to this result and in not ordering exhumation of the father’s body.