Legal Postmortem DNA Tests - info-hero

Legal Postmortem DNA Test

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When a loved one passes away, especially if it is unexpected, a family may need to resolve questions about the relationship of the deceased to other family members, especially children. Our postmortem DNA testing compares the genetic material from someone who is recently deceased with a living relative. The results of this type of genetic testing can have important ramifications when it comes to wills, estates, and social security or survivor benefits.

Performing DNA testing on a deceased family member isn’t as difficult as it may sound. When you order postmortem DNA testing, Health Street works with you, the coroner’s office, or the funeral home to obtain DNA samples from the deceased individual. The other person being tested will need to be scheduled for genetic testing, which is a simple cheek swab at one of our nationwide clinics. Register online or call (888) 378-2499.

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Louis has been awesome. He was very helpful. We do not have the test done yet but the process so far has been very good.
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Postmortem Paternity Test Options

Postmortem Paternity Test
A legal postmortem DNA test should be ordered if the legal relationship of a deceased person to a child, sibling, or another family member needs to be established. Legal postmortem DNA test results may be used in court or other legal matters as legal proof of the relationship. Find Clinic Now

About Postmortem DNA Testing

Paternity Testing on a Deceased Individual

If a father passes away, but he was not named on the child’s birth certificate and was not married to the child’s mother, the mother and child may not be able to seek out social security benefits unless and until they can prove paternity.

How Postmortem Testing Works

In postmortem DNA testing, a lab tests a DNA sample from obtained from a deceased individual and compares it to a cheek swab of the living relative. Scientists then the study genetic markers for both parties to establish if they are related.

Why a Postmortem DNA Test May Be Needed

When a relative has recently passed away but the legal relationship between the parties was never established, such as the relationship between a deceased man and his child, sibling, or another family member, a postmortem DNA test may be needed. Proving this relationship may be required to manage the deceased person’s estate or to obtain government benefits such as social security.

Obtaining the Test Results

After all specimens have been collected and assuming the specimen for the deceased is viable, it takes two to four weeks for the lab to conduct the 21 marker genetic analysis and provide the results. The signed report from the DNA testing lab is emailed to you. An official hard copy is sent by U.S. mail, which may take an additional week or two to arrive.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Costly is DNA Testing of a Deceased Person?

Postmortem DNA testing is more costly than other types of relationship testing because of the legal ramifications and documents required. A legal postmortem paternity test can be done for $850, which includes the deceased and one other person, such as an alleged child. In comparison, non-legal home tests can be used if the person is recently deceased, using specimens like hair or fingernails, and can be done for $650; however, the results of a home test cannot be used for legal purposes.

Attention NY Residents: A doctor’s prescription is required for all DNA tests; additional lab fees must be paid directly to the lab.

Does Anything Destroy DNA?

Although DNA can last for thousands of year, the fact is that DNA is vulnerable, and can be easily broken down over time by water, sunlight, enzymes, as well as the chemicals in embalming fluid. Ideally, you should conduct postmortem testing as soon as possible after a person has died.

While it may seem obvious, DNA can not be obtained from a deceased person whose body has been cremated. DNA begins to degrade at 800 degrees, and the heat during cremation ranges from 1,400 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Cremation destroys all organic matter, including DNA.

Where Can You Get DNA From?

If the person has not been buried or embalmed, the most reliable method of collecting DNA is using a blood card, hair follicles, or fingernail clippings. A coroner can help you with the blood card. If hair or fingernails are collected, it is important to provide at least a dozen or more samples.

When Might Postmortem DNA Testing Be Needed?

Postmortem DNA testing is used to establish a relationship, such as paternity, after one of the parties has passed away. If there is uncertainty among surviving children about their family history, such as questions about the biological connection of the children to the parents who raised them, a DNA test can help bring clarity and closure. If the relationship in question may affect inheritance, estates, or other legal matters, a legal postmortem test should be used. If it is just for peace of mind to resolve questions in the minds of relatives, a home test using a specimen of the deceased may be appropriate.

What is Genetic Reconstruction?

You may hear this term used in connection with DNA paternity tests. If the father of a child (or children) is deceased and postmortem testing is not possible, or if the man refuses to be tested or cannot be located, this type of testing may be a suitable alternative. A genetic reconstruction test is actually a DNA test between relatives of the alleged father and his alleged child, such as an avuncular test. To ensure statistical significance, it needs to be a close relatve to the father, such as his mother, father, or a brother or sister. A third relative is typically required in this type of DNA test.

Is Postmortem Genetic Testing the Same Thing as a Postmortem DNA test?

When you hear the term postmortem genetic testing, it might refer to testing used to identify a person’s cause of death, or to determine if they carried genetic markers of inheritable diseases. On the other hand, Health Street’s postmortem DNA testing is used to determine biological relationships between individuals. In other words, this test checks to see if a living person is related to someone has recently passed on.

How Long After Death Can DNA Be Detected?

You may be wondering how long DNA samples can be collected from deceased individuals. Human DNA has been recovered from the Romanov royal family, who were executed during the Russian revolution, and scientists were able to confirm the death of American outlaw Jesse James—also through DNA collection. In fact, forensic DNA testing was successfully done from a Neanderthal fossil that was 70,000 years old! However, testing the deceased is not quite that simple, as forensic scientists will point out. Therefore, the sooner you can do the test after demise, the easier it will be to obtain a viable sample.

Why Use Health Street for Your Postmortem DNA Testing

If you’re interested in getting DNA tested from a deceased relative, Health Street can help. We have years of expertise with DNA testing that is accepted in court cases. Health Street’s tests are easy, safe, affordable, and discreet. When you order your DNA test from Health Street, you can rely on the accuracy of the result. We pride ourselves on our personalized service, and we will help you (or your clients) get the answers they need.

Call us today to order your postmortem DNA test or register online.

Related DNA Tests

If you’d like to see a comprehensive list of all DNA tests that Health Street offers, you can view all DNA tests here. Below are some of the related DNA tests that we offer:


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By Maria Harmison on 11/15/2017
The customer service was very helpful no matter what the question the 3 CSR’s were very helpful very kind especially the two young ladies that I spoke to Cecilia was one name I cannot remember the other girl’s name but they were very very sweet and very kind and help me out with any questions and any problems with the DNA test of deceased fiance. They didn’t make me wait until they felt like helping me they did it right there making sure that I had the answers as soon as they could give it to me. I would give those three that help me five stars without hesitation and that’s what I would have done had I not had to go through that and some other things but they deserve 5-stars very pleasant very sweet and very helpful.
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By Val on 12/24/2015
Amazingly responsible to our needs, providing court worthy documentation within 24 hours, if requested. Steven was on top of things and always responded to emails quickly. The phone staff were helpful and polite.
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By John C on
Great customer service and friendly, knowledgeable staff! I needed a paternity test for my son for his deceased father for birth certificate reason and Louis showed compassion and knowledge of the situation and helped during a very hard time!!


Radford, Tim. “How long does DNA last?” The Guardian, 13 January 2005,
Gielda, Lindsay and Rigg, Stefanie. “Extraction of amplifiable DNA from embalmed human cadaver tissue.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 13 December 2017,
“Questions about Cremation.”,
“Post Mortem Genetic Testing.” National Society of Genetic Counselors,
Crozier, Justin. “Post-Mortem Paternity Testing.” Crozier Law LLC,