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Inheritance Rights of a Child Conceived after a Parent's Death

It wasn't that long ago that couples who experienced infertility struggles had very few options. Now, reproductive technology has evolved to a place where people have a wide variety of options for planning and growing their families.

Medical breakthroughs even make it possible for people to freeze their eggs or sperm for a variety of reasons, such as waiting to have children until one spouse recovers from an illness or setting aside these materials because one spouse must undergo a medical procedure that will make it impossible to conceive naturally down the road.

These technologies are amazing advances, but they also raise numerous legal issues. One main issue is what happens when a child is conceived after a parent has passed away? That is, what happens in the inheritance context? The issue has come up in cases where the widow of a member of the armed forces has used frozen embryos to become pregnant with a deceased spouse's child.

The vast majority of matters related to estates, trusts, and inheritance are controlled by state law. For example, Minnesota law governs which individuals are entitled to inherit someone's property in the event the person dies without a will. These laws, known as "intestate succession" laws, give a surviving spouse and children priority to the decedent's property.

When it comes to children conceived posthumously (after one parent's death), the states vary widely on whether a child can inherit. In fact, most states are silent on the issue, which may be because the law has yet to catch up to technology. In California, a child conceived posthumously can inherit if the child is conceived within two years of the parent's death and the deceased apparent agreed to the conception in writing prior to passing away.

In Minnesota, however, the law addresses what happens when conception occurs after a parent has died. Section 524.2-120 of the Minnesota Statutes addresses children conceived by assisted reproduction. Specifically, the law states: "... a parent-child relationship does not exist between a child of assisted reproduction and another person unless the child of assisted reproduction is in gestation prior to the death of such person."

This means a posthumously conceived child has no right to inherit under a deceased parent's estate unless the child was already in utero at the time of the parent's death.

Minnesota Estate Planning and Probate Law Firm

Do you have questions about assisted reproduction technology and estate issues? Call the Minnesota probate and estate planning attorneys at Jeffrey P. Scott & Associates, LLC today at (651) 968-1457 to learn more and to discuss your case.

This website has been prepared by Jeffrey P. Scott & Associates, LLC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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Jeffrey P. Scott & Associates

Jeffrey P. Scott & Associates LLC
2356 University Avenue West, Suite 400 | St. Paul, MN 55114
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