In 2005 sixteen-year-old Jerrod Miller was shot to death by a Delray Beach police officer. Ten years earlier, in 1995, Kenneth Miller was declared Jerrod’s father by an adjudication of paternity and judgment requiring child support. In 2006 posthumous DNA testing revealed a 99% likelihood that another man, Terry Glover, is really the biological father of Jerrod. Because Jerrod died without a will, under Florida’s laws of intestacy (F.S. 732.103), Jerrod’s estate passes to his parents in equal shares or to his sole surviving parent if either predeceased him. Jerrod’s mother died in 2003, so whomever ends up designated as his father gets everything. According to this Sun-Sentinel report, millions could be at stake:
Miller’s attorney, T.J. Cunningham, said Willie Gary would file a wrongful-death lawsuit as soon as Miller is formally appointed personal representative of the estate. Gary, a high-profile Stuart attorney, previously notified Delray Beach that the estate would settle the case for $7.5 million.
Both men filed dueling petitions for administration of Jerrod Miller’s estate. The probate court ruled in favor of Miller based on the 1995 paternity adjudication — and the 4th DCA upheld that ruling based in part on the following rationale:
Section 732.101(2) provides that the decedent’s date of death is the event vesting the heirs’ rights to intestate property. At the date of Jerrod’s death, Glover was not considered Jerrod’s father for purposes of intestate succession, because he never married Jerrod’s mother, was never adjudicated to be his father, and never acknowledged in writing that he was Jerrod’s father. In contrast, Miller was Jerrod’s father for purposes of intestate succession because he was adjudicated to be Jerrod’s father. Thus, Miller’s rights vested on Jerrod’s death because he is Jerrod’s father by a paternity judgment. Jerrod was a lineal descendant of Miller within the meaning of section 732.108(2)(b), so he is an heir for purposes of section 733.301(1)(b)3.
. . . . . .
As noted by the trial court, Glover did not move to set aside the adjudication of Miller’s paternity. His petition for administration of the estate merely alleged that he is the biological father of Jerrod. Yet Miller is Jerrod’s father in the eyes of the law, regardless of the results of DNA testing.[FN1] The legal father has substantial rights (in this case vested rights) which cannot be lightly dismissed, even by the discovery that the legal father is not the biological father. In fact, our supreme court has held that the mere fact that biological testing shows that a man other than a legal father is the biological father of the child without more does not require the granting of a paternity petition. Dep’t of Health & Rehabilitative Servs. v. Privette, 617 So.2d 305 (Fla.1993).
[FN1.] Glover’s contention that he is entitled to summary judgment of fatherhood based upon DNA testing alone is also statutorily inaccurate. Where DNA testing shows a 95 percent or more confidence level that the man is the biological father, it creates only a rebuttable presumption of fatherhood. § 742.12(4), Fla. Stat. (2006).
. . . . . .
We agree with the trial court that in order for Glover to assert a right as an heir, the existing judgment of paternity would have to be vacated. A child cannot have two legally recognized fathers. See Achumba v. Neustein, 793 So.2d 1013, 1015 (Fla. 5th DCA 2001).