Monday, June 22, 2009

When is an Heir an Heir?

An Iowan is struggling with the definition of heir under the Iowa Probate Code. In order to qualify as an "heir" under Iowa law, you must have been conceived prior to the death of the biological parent. This has been the definition of an "heir" for 150 years. However, with advances in medical science, it is now possible that a child can be conceived after death through fertilization from frozen sperm. Still a child right? Wrong, under Iowa intestate law and for social security benefits.

Despite the same result, social security administration has ruled that being conceived after death is not the same as being conceived before death of the biological parent. As a result, the child, who has her father's DNA and is in fact the biological daughter of her father, will not be able to reap the benefits of her father's social security benefits, as other children would, that he contributed to during his life.

Due to a split in the circuit courts, expect to see either this case or a similar case before the US Supreme Court in the future. Until then, the legislature should examine the definitions in light of changes in medical science.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am writing to you because my friend is an ex-attorney.. She has told me that something is wrong...I am a legal heir to my Grandfather's estate/personal property, but have not heard who the legal executor is. I have many questions to ask, but am concerned confidentiality. His daughter is selling his property outright already against grandpa's wishes. He hasn't even been passed away for a month yet. Can we go non-pulic? Please write to me to tell me how.

Matthew Gardner said...

Anonymous-
You certainly have some potential legal issues. Before I can answer your questions, I need additional information and to perform a conflicts check. Please call or email me to discuss.

One thing to note is that being an heir does not make you a beneficiary. The disposing document (will or trust or other) determines whether you have a right to share in the assets of your grandfather.