Berman & Asbel, LLP

New reproductive technologies present challenges for estate plans

Many people in Pennsylvania have personal experience with reproductive technologies. Whether is it a friend, family member, or your own family who has relied on technologies like in-vitro fertilization, it is clear that these innovations have great potential to help people have children.

At the same time, in-vitro fertilization also presents some new legal scenarios that are relatively untested, particularly in the area of estate planning

For example, let's say that someone is very ill and decides to donate sperm or harvest an egg incase the treatments for their illness lead to infertility. What happens if that person passes away but their spouse uses the donated genetic material to have another child anyways - does this child inherit the same way that a child born during the person's life does?

The outcome will depend on the state in which this event occurs and also on any will that the person left behind or any trusts that they had established. If there is no will or trust document that addresses this specific situation, then the state will have to find an equitable way to apply the laws of inheritance without a will (called intestacy).

What about in the case of a donation? If a couple creates fertilized embryos but ultimately donates them without having a child of their own, does the resulting child by someone else have a right to inherit from their biological parents?

These questions clearly present both legal and philosophical questions, and while the answers might seem clear to some people, they are murky to others. This is why anyone who may be impacted by these new technologies should consider that while they are making their comprehensive estate plan. In doing so they can make sure that assets are distributed according to their wishes.


Source: New York Times, "Fertility Treatments Produce Heirs Their Parents Never Knew," Paul Sullivan, Aug. 30, 2013. 

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