You have asked whether the claimant is the child of the number holder for purposes
of child's insurance benefits based on statements in a warranty deed indicating the
number holder died intestate and the claimant was one of his surviving heirs.
We believe the claimant did not provide clear and convincing evidence that he is the
number holder's child under Tennessee intestacy law. Therefore, the claimant is not
the number holder's child for purposes of child's insurance benefits.
According to the documents and information provided, Matthew F~ (Claimant) applied
for child's insurance benefits on the earnings record of Cecil E. W~, the number holder
(NH), on July 13, 2010, as a disabled adult child. Social Security Administration
(SSA) computer records indicate SSA previously found Claimant disabled for purposes
of disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income on his own record.
SSA's computer records and the information provided also indicate Claimant's mother
was married to W. F~, but they divorced on February 26, 1956, more than four years
before Claimant's birth. Claimant apparently told SSA he thought Mr. F~ was his father
until his mother told him NH was his father. The information provided also states
Mr. F~ did not legally adopt Claimant, accept Claimant as his child, or contribute
to Claimant's support. Claimant's birth certificate and Claimant's first entry in
the Master Files of Social Security Number (SSN) Holders and SSN Applications (Numident)
did not list a father. SSA later changed Claimant's Numident entry to list NH as his
father, but SSA's computer records do not provide a basis for designating NH as Claimant's
father. A copy of NH's death certificate indicates he died on December 28, 2004.
In connection with his application for child's insurance benefits on NH's earnings
record, Claimant submitted a copy of a warranty deed dated May 20, 2008, conveying
land owned by Claimant. The description of the land in the warranty deed indicates
NH, or another individual named Cecil W~, inherited a 1/6 undivided interest in the
land as an heir of John W~ by deed recorded on January 26, 1989. The description of
the land also states "Cecil W~ died intestate on October 15, 2005, survived by his
children, [Claimant and another individual], being his sole surviving heirs."
Claimant also provided a child relationship statement in which he checked a box to
indicate NH made a will listing him as a beneficiary. On the next page, however, Claimant
reported NH died without a will. In the statement, Claimant also claims he inherited
NH's property under Tennessee intestacy law. Claimant indicated he had no other documents
or evidence regarding his relationship with NH.
A claimant may be eligible for child's insurance benefits on the earnings record of
an individual who dies a fully or currently insured individual if the claimant is
the insured individual's "child." See Social Security Act (Act) § 202(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(1) (2010). "Child"
includes the natural child of an insured individual. See Act § 216(e); 20 C.F.R. § 404.354 (2010). If the number holder is deceased and he
and the claimant's mother never married, the claimant must establish his relationship
to the number holder under section 216(h)(2)(A) or section 216(h)(3)(C) of the Act.
Under section 216(h)(2)(A), a claimant is considered the child of the insured individual
if the claimant could inherit the insured individual's intestate personal property
under the law of the State in which the insured individual was domiciled when he died.
See Act § 216(h)(2)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.355(a)(1), (b)(1), (b)(4) (2010). NH's death
certificate indicates he was domiciled in Tennessee when he died. Therefore, we look
to Tennessee intestacy law to determine whether Claimant is NH's child under section
Under Tennessee intestacy law, when a person dies intestate, the surviving children
of the deceased (i.e., the surviving issue or heirs) may be entitled to all or a share
of the deceased's intestate personal property. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 31-2-101, 31-2-103, 31-2-104 (2010). For purposes of intestate
succession, a person is the child of the father if:
(A) The natural parents participated in a marriage ceremony before or after the birth
of the child, even though the attempted marriage is void; or
(B) The paternity is established by an adjudication before the death of the father
or is established thereafter by clear and convincing proof . . . .
Tenn. Code Ann. § 31-2-105(a)(2) (2010). The information provided does not indicate
Claimant's mother and NH participated in a marriage ceremony. Therefore, Claimant
had to establish NH's paternity by clear and convincing proof. See In re Estate of Walton v. Young, 950 S.W.2d 956, 958 (Tenn. 1997) (indicating child born out of wedlock has burden
of proof). In defining clear and convincing proof, the Tennessee Supreme Court has
The clear and convincing standard falls somewhere between the preponderance of the
evidence in civil cases and the beyond a reasonable doubt standard in criminal proceedings.
To be clear and convincing, the evidence must produce in the mind of the trier of
facts a firm belief or conviction as to the allegations sought to be established.
Clear and convincing evidence means evidence in which there is no serious or substantial
doubt about the correctness of the conclusions drawn from the evidence.
Id. at 960 (quoting Fruge v. Doe, 952 S.W.2d 408, 412 n.2 (Tenn. 1997) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
"In contrast to the preponderance of the evidence standard, clear and convincing evidence
should demonstrate that the truth of the facts asserted is highly probable as opposed
to merely more probable than not." In re M.A.R., 183 S.W.3d 652, 660 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2005) (quoting In re C.W.W., 37 S.W.3d 467, 474 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2000) (internal quotations marks omitted). "[T]he
requirements of clear and convincing proof is not satisfied by circumstances which
merely 'suggest' or imply parentage, or even support probability. The circumstances
must be such as to produce a state of conviction (by convincing) that the desired
fact is indeed true." Majors v. Smith, 776 S.W.2d 538, 540 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1989).
In support of his claim, Claimant provided a copy of a 2008 warranty deed by which
Claimant conveyed land he allegedly inherited from NH. The only relevant portion of
the warranty deed is the description of the land. The description states Cecil W~
inherited a 1/6 interest in the land from John W~. The description further states
"Cecil W~ died intestate on October 15, 2005, survived by his children, [including
Claimant], being his sole surviving heirs."
We do not believe the statements in the warranty deed provide clear and convincing
evidence that NH is Claimant's father. Nothing in the warranty deed explains how or
by whom Claimant was determined to be one of NH's surviving heirs.** Claimant's numident
also is reportedly devoid of any explanation as to why SSA listed NH as Claimant's
father. Claimant alleged he inherited the property from NH under Tennessee intestacy
law, but he provided no proof to support his claim. Moreover, the date of NH's death
indicated in the warranty deed—October 15, 2005—is different from the date of his
death on his death certificate—December 28, 2004. The discrepancy calls into question
the validity of the statements in the warranty deed and even whether the Cecil W~
noted in the warranty deed is NH. Claimant also did not provide evidence typically
provided in paternity actions, such as blood tests, acknowledgement by the father,
family resemblance, evidence of access, opportunity, and capacity to have children,
or anecdotal evidence that would support his claim that NH is his father. See McDowell v. Boyd, No. 01A01-9509-CH-00413, 1997 WL 749470, at *2-4 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1997) (noting evidence
that may prove parentage); Majors, 776 S.W.2d at 540 (discussing cases involving clear
and convincing evidence or lack thereof). The unsubstantiated statements in the warranty
deed, standing alone, do not create a firm belief or render it highly probable that
NH is Claimant's father. See In re M.A.R., 183 S.W.3d at 660; In re Estate of Walton, 950 S.W.2d at 960. Therefore, we believe Claimant failed to provide clear and convincing
proof that NH is his father under Tennessee intestacy law for the purposes of section
216(h)(2)(A) of the Act.
A claimant also may be the "child" of a deceased insured individual under section
216(h)(3)(C) of the Act if the claimant is the son or daughter of the insured individual
and shows one of the following: (1) the insured individual acknowledged in writing
that the claimant was his child, (2) a court decreed the insured individual to be
the claimant's father, (3) a court ordered the insured individual to contribute to
the claimant's support, or (4) the insured individual was living with or contributing
to the claimant's support when the insured individual died. See Act § 216(h)(3)(C); 20 C.F.R. § 404.355(a)(3), (a)(4). The acknowledgment, court
decree, or court order also must have occurred before the insured individual's death.
See Act § 216(h)(3)(C); 20 C.F.R. § 404.355(a)(3). The information provided does not indicate
Claimant is NH's son, i.e., his biological child. See Program Operations Manual System GN 00306.100.A.1, D.1. The information provided also does not include a written acknowledgement
by NH, a court order establishing paternity, a court order ordering NH to support
Claimant, or evidence that NH lived with or contributed to Claimant's support. Therefore,
SSA could not deem Claimant to be NH's child under section 216(h)(3)(C) of the Act.
We do not believe the warranty deed provides clear and convincing evidence that NH
is Claimant's father under Tennessee intestacy law and for the purposes of section
216(h)(2)(A) of the Act. Claimant also failed to prove he is NH's child under section
216(h)(3)(C) of the Act. Therefore, we do not believe an SSA adjudicator could conclude
Claimant is NH's child for the purposes of child's insurance benefits on NH's earnings
Mary A. S~
Regional Chief Counsel
Brian C. H~
Assistant Regional Counsel