DNA and the Law: Your Genetic Code Can Protect You
Many people do not realize that DNA is being put to new and creative uses. While we may be many years from an instant DNA test to verify your identity at an airport or when using a credit card, there are important uses for DNA that are readily available, and exceedingly accurate when proper gathering, preservation, and chain of custody procedures are followed.
For example, DNA is taking a greater role every day in estate planning. Apart from the traditional concerns of lessening the tax burden on the estate, charitable gifts, and other common issues, DNA can be used to protect the estate, the deceased person, and his or her rightful heirs. In most instances, there are no disputes over biological relationships when someone dies. But what if, in the case of a large estate, an interloper claims to be descended from the deceased individual? Determining a biological relationship after death can be very complex. Testing relatives, finding DNA samples from the deceased person, etc. can be less than perfect, as the samples may be degraded, or biological relatives may be unavailable or uncooperative.
The ideal approach for a large estate, especially where there may be concerns about undeserving claimants, is to incorporate a DNA profile into the estate planning process. Even if there are no present concerns, someone with fame or wealth may be subject to unscrupulous claimants. If collected with a complete chain of custody, accurate DNA information can be used very effectively to resolve any relationship issues that arise after death. With the adoption of standard DNA identification systems, this approach to a highly secure estate plan is now possible.
Because DNA profiling done correctly is so accurate, DNA has revolutionized approaches to many legal issues, including paternity testing, crime scene evaluations, and proving – – or disproving – – other genetic relationships. Remarkably, many Native American tribes are using DNA to determine who is entitled to government settlement money, gambling revenues, etc.