In the Matter of the Estate of Chad Allan Fechner.
BY THE COURT
whether a person is an heir is contested in a probate
proceeding, the district court has the authority to order DNA
testing to help determine the contested issue.
factual questions about paternity are contested in a probate
proceeding, the Kansas Parentage Act presumptions for
determining paternity set out in K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 23-2208
apply whether or not any of the parties to the probate
proceeding would have standing to bring a separate Parentage
deciding whether to order DNA testing to determine paternity
in a probate proceeding, the district court should consider
(1) whether the DNA evidence would be relevant; (2) whether
providing a sample will unduly infringe on privacy rights;
(3) whether there is a reasonable possibility of match or
non-match; (4) the presumptions of paternity set out in the
Kansas Parentage Act; and (5) the best-interests-of-the-child
test from In re Marriage of Ross, 245 Kan. 591, 783
P.2d 331 (1989).
district court abuses its discretion by failing to exercise
that discretion based on a misunderstanding of the law.
from Geary District Court; Charles A. Zimmerman, magistrate
P. Troup, of Weary Davis, L.C., of Junction City, for
D. Woolpert, of Topeka, for appellee.
Leben, P.J., Green and Malone, JJ.
Young and Gary Fechner both claimed an interest in an estate
as relatives of a man who died with no will and no living
parents, siblings, or children. But Rita suggested Gary
wasn't biologically related to the man and asked for DNA
district court denied that request, concluding that it lacked
authority to order such tests. After making that decision,
the court heard evidence and sustained Gary's claim to a
part of the estate.
agree with Rita that the district court had the discretionary
authority to order DNA testing. And a court abuses its
discretion when it fails to exercise that discretion based on
a misunderstanding of the law. See Green v. Unified
Gov't of Wyandotte Co./KCK, 54 Kan.App.2d 118, 121,
397 P.3d 1211 (2017). So we will vacate the district
court's judgment and send the case back for further
and Procedural Background
Chad Fechner died in 2014, his maternal aunt, Rita Young,
thought she was his only living relative, so she opened a
probate estate. But Gary Fechner filed a claim in the estate
alleging that he was Chad's half uncle, a claim supported
by the birth certificates of Chad's father and Gary-both
had the same father, making them half brothers. If true, Gary
would share in Chad's estate with Rita.
questioned whether those birth certificates and other records
were accurate. The documents showed that Chad's father
(and Gary's half brother) was Delwyne Fechner. Delwyne
had died in 2002, but Rita had a letter a woman named Betty
Lou had sent to Delwyne in 1999 saying that some "gossip
going through Mrs. Hicklin[']s Beauty Shoppe here in
Oakley" in the 1940s had been that Delwyne's real
father was Earl Goble, not Willis Fechner. If so, Rita
argued, Gary wasn't actually related to Delwyne or to
asked that the court order Gary to submit to DNA testing to
prove his biological relation to Chad. Some of Chad's DNA
was available because the ...