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Zygotes Aren't Entitled to Dead Parent's Benefits, Says Most Twilight Zone-y Supreme Court Ruling Ever

Illustration for article titled Zygotes Arent Entitled to Dead Parents Benefits, Says Most Twilight Zone-y Supreme Court Ruling Ever

Well, thank goodness that's settled. The Supreme Court ruled today that children conceived via in vitro fertilization after the death of a parent aren't automatically entitled to that dead parent's Social Security benefits, as they're not technically "survivors," because they're not "natural children" as defined by state law.

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The Court ruled unanimously that the twins of Florida couple Robert and Karen Caputo weren't entitled to Robert's Social Security benefits because they weren't conceived until after Robert died of cancer, and according to Florida state law, children conceived after death aren't entitled to survivor benefits, and the children weren't named in Robert's will (because how could he have known that his wife would give birth to twins a year and a half after he died?).

This brushes up against, but doesn't upend, existing state laws that allow children of parents who were deceased before their conception to inherit their dead parent's property. According to the AP, California, Colorado, Idaho, North Dakota, and Louisiana have passed laws expressly allowing children conceived after a parent's death to inherit property from their parent, within certain time frames. So, if I dug up a grave of a rich dude in California and somehow used Mad Science to extract his DNA from a hair follicle and used beakers and flames and green chemicals in a hand boiler to make that DNA into sperm, I couldn't impregnate myself with his child and then claim that my baby was entitled to his priceless monocle/Fabergé egg collection. In theory.

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Image via Sebastian Kaulitzki/Shutterstock

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DISCUSSION

I think the headline is misleading. The issue is if a child conceived (whether we're talking about a zygote or a three year old) after the death of a parent is entitled to benefits from the deceased parent. To me though, if he had cancer and had his sperm frozen he intended to have these kids, or have these kids be born no matter what, so to me they should receive benefits. Of course the decision that children conceived in vitro aren't "natural children" could lead to a lot of other complications, like can insurance companies bar them from coverage? It would seem to me that this decision could open many other legal cans of worms. If someone here is law smart I'm curious if that could be the case.