This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat.§ 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




Pamela J. Wolters,



K. Bruce Stoolas as Personal Representative of

Sherman E. Hanson Estate.

Filed December 15, 1998


Harten, Judge

Mower County District Court

File No. F9-97-51029

Jason P. Rietz, Rietz, Rietz & Rietz, LLP, 118 North Cedar, P.O. Box 264, Owatonna, MN 55060 (for appellant)

Mark A. Anderson, Kevin H. Siefken, Christian & Peterson, P.A., 314 South Broadway, Albert Lea, MN 56007 (for respondent Stoolas)

Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Harten, Judge.



Respondent, decedent's estate, moved for summary judgment in a paternity action brought against the estate by appellant. Summary judgment was granted on the ground that appellant lacked standing to bring the action. Because we see no genuine issue of material fact and no error of law, we affirm.


Sherman Hanson died intestate in November 1996; his sole heirs were his siblings and their children. A year after his death, appellant Pamela Wolters, claiming to be Hanson's daughter, brought an action to have his paternity declared so she could participate in the proceeds of his estate. Appellant submitted an affidavit from her mother, Vallborg Vollmer, stating that appellant had been conceived during Vollmer's sexual relationship with Hanson from November 1958 to January 1959, that Vollmer married Milton Olson in May 1959, that Olson was listed as appellant's father at her birth in September 1959 and acted as her father throughout her life, and that until some months after Hanson's death, neither Vollmer nor Hanson ever told appellant that her father was not Olson but Hanson.

Hanson remained a family friend; he became particularly close to appellant and her children after appellant's 1991 marriage dissolution. Hanson gave appellant access to his bank accounts and, according to appellant, wanted her eventually to have his property, particularly his farmland, because he was not on good terms with his siblings and had no other family. Appellant was involved with planning Hanson's funeral. Despite the closeness between them, however, she made no attempt to establish paternity either during his lifetime or before his burial.

To establish her status as Hanson's child and heir, appellant brought a paternity action against respondent's estate and sought an associated court order that Hanson's remains be disinterred for genetic testing. Hanson's siblings intervened. Respondent moved for summary judgment, arguing that appellant lacked standing to bring a paternity action. The district court granted respondent's motion for summary judgment, dismissed appellant's paternity action, and denied her motion for disinterment. Appellant challenges that judgment.


"Whether the trial court properly interpreted the Parentage Act is a question of law, which we review without deference to the trial court's conclusions." In re Welfare of C.M.G., 516 N.W.2d 555, 558 (Minn. App. 1994).

Minn. Stat. § 257.55, subd. 1 (1996), provides:

A man is presumed to be the biological father of a child if:

* * * *

(f) Evidence of statistical probability of paternity based on blood or genetic testing establishes the likelihood that he is the father of the child, calculated with a prior probability of no more than 0.5 (50 percent), is 99 percent or greater[.]

Minn. Stat. § 257.57, subd. 2 (1996), enables a child to bring an action to establish paternity pursuant either to the above presumption or to the presumptions set out in Minn. Stat. § 257.55 (d), (e), (g), and (h) (1996). Accordingly, some statutory presumption of paternity is a prerequisite to an action to establish paternity when there is another presumptive father. Because Hanson was not appellant's presumptive father under any of the criteria when she brought the action, the district court held that she had no standing.

Appellant relies on Weber v. Anderson, 269 N.W.2d 892, 894-95 (Minn. 1978) (holding that the Parentage Act should be liberally construed to achieve "its remedial and humanitarian purposes"). But "[w]hen the words of a law in their application to an existing situation are clear and free from all ambiguity, the letter of the law shall not be disregarded under the pretext of pursuing the spirit." Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (1996). Appellant's "liberal construction" ignores the plain language of the Parentage Act, which provides that an action to establish paternity may be brought only when paternity is presumed under one of the statutory criteria.

Appellant also argues that a liberal construction is necessary to resolve alleged conflicts between provisions of the statute. But these conflicts do not exist. Minn. Stat. § 257.62, subd. 1(a) (1996), provides that a court, upon request of a party, shall require an alleged father to submit to blood or genetic tests if the party requesting the test files an affidavit that alleges paternity and sets forth the reasonable possibility of the requisite sexual contact. Contrary to appellant's argument, this provision does not conflict with the statutory requirement that paternity be presumed before bringing an action to establish paternity, provided that the alleged father is alive.

If the alleged father is deceased, however, Minn. Stat. § 257.62, subd. 1(c) (1996), provides that, upon request of a party to a paternity action, the court may order genetic testing of the decedent's parents or siblings, but that the test results may be used to establish paternity only for the purpose of receiving public assistance.[1] No provision or combined provisions of the Parentage Act enable a child to establish paternity in order to participate in the estate of a decedent who meets none of the statutory criteria for presumed paternity. Appellant cannot read this provision into the statute through "liberal construction" of the provisions already there.

Appellant also relies on R.B. v. C.S., 536 N.W.2d 634, 638 (Minn. App. 1995) ("[A] child who is not represented in an adjudication of her paternity may bring a subsequent paternity action pursuant to the Minnesota Parentage Act * * *."), and on C.M.G., 516 N.W.2d at 560 (where there are two presumed fathers, "the child's best interests is a valid policy factor in resolving a conflict" between them). Her reliance is misplaced; both cases are readily distinguishable. Appellant has not gone unrepresented in any adjudication of her paternity because there has been no such adjudication; unlike the child in R.B., she lacks that basis for bringing an action. Appellant has only one presumed father--Olson; therefore, C.M.G.'s holding that a child's best interest is a valid criterion for choosing between two presumed fathers is irrelevant.

Because Hanson met none of the statutory criteria for presumed paternity, we agree with the district court that appellant lacks standing to bring an action to establish that he was appellant's father. Our conclusion that appellant lacks standing rendersmoot the issue of whether she overcomes the presumption against disinterment set out in Minn. Stat. § 149A.96, subd. 5 (Supp. 1997).


[1] The statute also provides that if those tested agree, the results may be used for other purposes, but Hanson's siblings, desiring to maintain their own position as his heirs, do not agree.