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Should children conceived after death receive an inheritance?

Scientific advances in the area of conception have allowed numerous couples here in New Jersey and around the country to have a child when they could not conceive one naturally. Technology also allows men and women to freeze either their sperm or eggs for future implantation -- even after the death of one of the prospective parents. This raises the question as to whether a child conceived and born after death should receive an inheritance from his or her deceased parent.

This question has not received enough attention in the courts for there to be any conclusive answers. Only two states currently address the issue, and New Jersey is not one of them. In those states, a child must be conceived no later than 36 months after the death of one of the parents for that child to be eligible for some form of inheritance.

Outside of those laws enacted by California and Florida, a case in New York ruled that a child born after the death of a parent could inherit from the deceased parent's estate. Most other cases surrounding this issue have to deal with property rights of the frozen sperm or eggs. Those laws would not be applicable once a child is born.

New Jersey parents who wish to ensure that a posthumously born child is entitled to an inheritance may need to be proactive. Structuring an estate plan to account for this possibility would ensure the child is a beneficiary of the estate. Any couple who decides to freeze either the man's sperm or the woman's eggs may benefit from advice and assistance in making sure that any child will be properly cared for in the event one of the parties dies before the genetic material can be used.

Source: MarketWatch, "Your frozen sperm could inherit your estate", Matthew Heimer, May 30, 2014

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