INHERITANCE: FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MUST USE STATE LAWS

In national news, Texas residents may have heard that the Supreme Court recently ruled that two children, who were conceived through artificial insemination after their father’s death, cannot receive Social Security survivor benefits.

The Court unanimously ruled that twins born to the man’s surviving wife did not qualify for survivor benefits because the federal government is required to use state inheritance laws.

According to sources, the man’s frozen sperm was used to impregnate his wife after his death from esophageal cancer, which 18 months later, resulted in the birth of twins. The man died in a state where the law bars children conceived posthumously from inheritance. The only way to comply with this law is if the children are named in a will. In this particular case, the man had only named his wife and his other children, which existed at the time of his death.

Ultimately, the woman moved to a different state with alternative inheritance laws. Even so, when she applied for Social Security benefits for the twins, her application was rejected. According to the state’s law, the twins needed to be conceived while the father was alive.

After this ruling, a federal judge agreed that the twins had to qualify as children before the father’s death.

Next, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision, saying that the twins were the biological children of the man and therefore, they deserved survivor benefits. Even so, various other federal appellate courts have ruled the other way. This is why the issue ultimately went to the Supreme Court.

In this particular decision, the Supreme Court decided that the federal government should use state inheritance laws in making such rulings. If you have questions about the inheritance rules in Texas, you may want to speak to a qualified estate planning lawyer. He or she can fill you in on any legal technicalities, which often differ from location to location.

Source: All Voices, “Supreme Court: Twins conceived posthumously cannot receive survivor’s benefits,” Dava Castillo, May 21, 2012