Discovering your ancestry can be both fun and fascinating which is why at-home DNA tests have grown in popularity in recent years.
Often given as a unique gift for loved ones, the kits reveal details about our individual and collective pasts. But what you might not know is that these tests aren’t all fun and games.
First off, your results do not belong to you alone – they belong to the company who makes the tests. Secondly, they could reveal unexpected results or even unknown family, including biological children.
Generally, privacy is the primary concern for most people considering a private DNA test. But in the unlikely event that you discover unknown family, you must consider how they could be entitled to an inheritance after you die. A newly discovered biological child could be entitled to inherit your assets just like your other children. This could spell serious trouble for your known-family after your passing. Without proper planning, a person with whom you have no relationship could end up with the same inheritance as your other children.
Even with a will, a newly discovered biological child may be able to claim a share of your assets under the pretermitted heir rules of your state. A pretermitted heir is someone who has not been mentioned or specifically left anything in a will. Regardless of being left out, such “heir” may still be able to demand their legal share under the state laws of distribution and descent. If you’re concerned about this happening, give our estate planning attorneys a call and we can help you clear up the language in your will to make sure the people you intended to inherit your assets actually do.
As we mentioned before, commercial DNA testing companies are not subject to the same privacy laws that hospitals must obey concerning our personal information. As soon as you send your DNA off for testing, it becomes part of a database regulated by the company behind the kit. These companies can volunteer their database for all kinds of unexpected uses. Police, pharmaceutical companies, health insurance providers, and app developers are all hungry for this kind of data. Consider what would happen if your insurance provider found out your DNA suggests you are more likely to suffer from a serious disease given your genealogy? It’s not impossible that your rates could suddenly rise for no apparent reason. Or if your DNA was submitted to a police database and a connection was found between your DNA and a crime?
While it’s never a good idea to let fear guide your decision-making process, it’s a good idea to know exactly what you are getting into when taking these DNA tests. Even if you are certain you don’t have an unknown child to worry about, a serious potential disease or a criminal connection - these tests can bring about all kinds of unexpected legal consequences. Knowing the potential consequences beforehand is key, and thoroughly reading the privacy policies of the DNA company are critical.