The Bioethics of ARTs in Inheritance Law

Since the introduction of advances in Assisted Reproductive Technologies (“ARTs”) reproduction options for infertile individuals has also informed legal discussions about the role of bioethics in inheritance laws. The election of artificial insemination (“AI”) in vitro fertilization (“IVF”) by future parents, or cryopreservation by individuals planning end of life treatment, is decision to seek scientific assisted human life. As result, new medical technologies and procedures have created the conditions for the development of bioethically responsible rules within federal and state laws of estate.

ARTs and Laws of Intestacy

At the heart of the reproductive technologies legal debate lies the United States Supreme Court’s interpretation of the principles of constitutional laws, and individual citizens’ rights of procreation. Procreative rights do not end with family planning, either. Example is the right to cryopreservation (cryogenic freezing); one of the latest IVF scientific procedures which enables storage and preservation of reproductive materials for future use or sale. IVF cryopreservation has a proven success rate. The question is, how such ARTs intended for posthumous reproduction are implicated within the inheritance laws U.S. federal and state laws of estate guided by rules of intestacy.

It is argued federal preemption of rules applying to ARTs more generally, is nevertheless subject separate policy treatment within state statutory provisions of estate law. In other words, where rules of intestacy are interpreted and defined by rules of estate within individual state laws, those provisions dictate beneficiary rights of entitlement to asset distribution and other enrichment where probate courts are concerned. To this end, it is suggested rules covering ARTs enacted at the state level will inevitably determine rule application to matters of estate.

What were once considered incontestable claims of inheritance tied to maternal birth, with IVFs and other ARTs, the eligibility of born children as direct heirs is now subject to reinterpretation. In some cases, it is interpreted ownership of frozen reproductive materials (i.e., sperm, ovum (egg), or embryos) is manifest right to family relations of a child born from those materials. From the point-of-view of the child, however, estate entitlements may be contested on basis of customary rules of birth right. Should revision take place within the law to comprehensively reform the rights of individuals from the standpoint of bioethics, radical alteration of existing estate and trust distribution laws may be the outcome.

AI Within Inheritance Law

The definition of ARTs within inheritance laws, is viewed in New York’s laws of estate which outlines the three (3) main rights issues of AI technologies and determination of legal status where rules of intestacy are considered: (1 parent(s); (2 child; and (3) and the reproductive material itself. The state’s statutory intestate succession rules specify the legitimacy of estate claims made by of children who conceived by this scientific procedure. Other inheritance issues arising from AI reproductive repository are not as precisely articulated, however. Example is rules of intestacy applying to no will estates. New York’s estate laws (EPTL 4-1.1)  arguably reshaped the legal landscape that once adhered to traditional concepts of childbearing and a child’s right to estate.

In estate matters where reproductive technologies, third-party surrogate pregnancy and gestational rights, reproductive assets, and beneficiary rights are implicated, there have been a range of precedent established by way of judicial activism, and across the nation’s fifty state jurisdictions. Records from the New York Task Force and the Advisory Committee to the Surrogate’s Court, indicate there are a plethora of issues connected to ARTs, illustrating the range of reproductive technologies related issues like “embryo adoption,” prompting legal consideration. For this reason, state legislatures continue to statutorily address the implications of AI and IVF reproductive technologies within inheritance law.

Planned giving specialists interested in nonprofit charitable giving strategies for bioethical rights organizations, will be interested the implications of ARTs within inheritance laws.

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