Sunday, February 10, 2013

Inheritance Rights of Unborn Iowans


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With today's medical bio-technology, it is not unusual for a couple to "store an embryo", or other "genetic material" for future use.  Perhaps they had multiple embryo's created, or they are going through a medical treatment which may affect their reproductive capabilities, or heading to war.  Regardless of the reason, the legal issues that can be raised with such foundations of life are interesting. For example, if a baby is eventually born as a result of the "stored genetic material" and the parent dies before they are born, what rights as a child/heir do they have?

The Iowa Code was modified in 2011 to provide a window of opportunity for an unborn to have rights of inheritance following the death of the parent.  Essentially, if a child is born within two (2) years after the death of a parent, they can inherit from that parent just as if they had been born prior to the parent's death.  If a deceased has left any genetic material, the personal representative of the estate must report that fact to the court and also leave sufficient assets for that potential person to receive their inheritance.

While it is possible that an embryo, or other material, can be frozen much longer than two years, the two year window was used merely to provide some reasonable period time and not to keep it indefinitely   Medical advances certainly create some interesting legal scenarios.

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