The determination of heirs is not always a cut-and-dried process. When disputes arise, probate courts oversee estate administration and are often called in to determine how wills, estates and benefits will be divided amongst heirs. Those who are attempting to unravel the will of a deceased loved one should seek to understand how current laws and rulings may affect their cases.

A woman from Portage, Michigan, is suing for Social Security benefits for her twins. The young children were conceived from frozen sperm via an artificial insemination process in 2001. Her husband had passed away before the conception, and a recent ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court has denied those benefits.

The court determined that since the twins were not conceived at the same time her husband was alive, they have no claim to benefits from the Social Security Administration. Two justices noted that they feel Michigan should change the law to allow for this type of situation.

Courts are regularly called in when wills are unclear or current law may not have kept up with changing medical sciences. Families attempting to gain access to federal death benefits such as those offered through Social Security can benefit from striving to understand both current law and upcoming changes that could change how the courts respond to similar cases in the future.

Families in situations such as this one should take special care with their estate planning, because as this case illustrates, the law does not always accommodate nontraditional families. Parents should be sure to prepare a clear and precise estate plan to ensure that their assets are distributed according to their wishes.

Source: Lansing State Journal, “Michigan court says kids aren’t heirs in frozen sperm case,” Dec. 21, 2012

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