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Benefits denied for posthumously conceived survivors

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that a man's children conceived by artificial insemination after his death cannot receive Social Security survivor benefits. A woman used her husband's frozen sperm to conceive after his death and gave birth to twins. The man died 18 months before his children were born.

When his wife moved to New Jersey, she filed for Social Security benefits for her twins and was rejected by the Social Security Administration based on the requirement that the father had to be alive at the time of conception. According to the SSA, the surviving wife did not qualify for benefits because of a requirement that the federal government follow state inheritance laws.

Under Florida state laws, posthumously conceived children are barred from inheritance unless they are expressly named in a will. The only beneficiaries named in the man's will were his wife, their first son, and his two children from a previous marriage.

A federal judge agreed with the denial, stating that in order to qualify for benefits, the children had to qualify under state inheritance laws as children who could legally inherit. The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia overturned the decision because the children were clearly the biological children and deserved survivor benefits. Other appellate courts have ruled differently and the federal court reversed the decision, finding that the laws of descent and distribution determine who inherits the estate. The children conceived posthumously should have been named in the will to collect benefits.

Do you think this is a fair ruling? Should the Social Security Administration assume the donor's intention? Does this ruling unfairly impact children conceived by artificial insemination?

Source: All Voices, "Supreme Court: Twins conceived posthumously cannot receive survivor's benefits," Dava Castillo, May 21, 2012.

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