A determination of paternity can be useful in a variety of circumstances. For example, recently in Florida, as well as in Nebraska, courts have ruled that children conceived through artificial insemination after the death of the parent cannot receive Social Security survivor benefits. The Florida court ruled that Florida law specifically prohibit children conceived posthumously from inheriting. The laws of Nebraska, on the other hand, do not specifically address inheritance rights of children posthumously conceived. However, they do allow children posthumously born to inherit, provided paternity is established.
In the Florida case, Social Security survivor benefits were not available to children conceived via artificial insemination following their father's death. In the Nebraska case, a child was conceived about a week after the father's death from cancer using artificial insemination. The argument that children conceived following the parent's death, but born within nine months after it, should inherit was not successful. As it stands now, children born posthumously, but not those conceived posthumously, generally enjoy inheritance rights.
Paternity refers to the legal determination of the father of a child. Paternity comes up in child support issues, but also in inheritance, adoption, custody and visitation issues, among others. DNA testing is utilized to determine paternity; this is what is known as a paternity test. A paternity test can be agreed to or a civil action to determine paternity can be commenced by one of the parties in court.
Current state laws generally require a child to be conceived prior to the death of the father (and, commonly, to be born within 300 days of the parent's death). This allows the state to distribute any estate to the decedent's heirs without worrying about previously unknown, new heirs, popping up later on. This is designed to protect against suspicious claims, fraud and investigations that would have to be followed up on by the court.
While a paternity determination may not always bring the desired result, such as in the case of posthumously conceived children, it comes up in many circumstances. As a result, understanding what it is, and its implications, can be important.
Source: SF Gate, "No survivor's benefits for posthumously conceived," Margery A. Beck, Nov. 16, 2012