Sunday, August 18, 2013
Lauralee Strange (2014 J.D. Candidate, Texas Tech University School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Inheritance for the Illegitimate: Children of Rape and the Need for Progressive Intestate Reform in Texas, 5 Est. Plan. & Cmty. Prop. L.J. 465 (Summer 2013). Provided below is the introduction to her article:
Genevieve Rindfield gave birth to a daughter, Diane Burkhard, nine months after her distant relative and employer, John Brooks, raped her. No one believed her story, and she and her daughter became outcasts. Rindfield did not bring suit because she wanted to avoid the negative attention. Fifty-one years later, Burkhard avenged her mother. When Brooks died, Burkhard contested his will. Despite his relatives’ objections, Burkhard had the body exhumed, and a subsequent DNA test confirmed that Brooks was Burkhard’s biological father. At the time, unrecognized, illegitimate children could not claim inheritance in Michigan. After Burkhard successfully contested her biological father’s will and won $90,000 of his estate, Michigan changed its laws.
Burkhard is committed to helping other children conceived through rape by establishing support groups and modifying laws across the country. Burkhard states, “This is about men not taking the responsibility, not being accountable for their actions—and the laws seem to be on their side when it comes to the illegitimate child.” Burkhard brought national attention to a topic that is not often recognized—a topic state legislatures need to address.
Should adoption or abortion solve this problem? For many women who conceive a child through rape, these are viable options. This discussion does not concern any debates about abortion versus adoption versus keeping the child; many women choose not to have an abortion or give the child up for adoption for personal, for moral, or for a myriad of other reasons. This discussion concerns the women who keep the child and the legislation that should be passed to protect their families. Because this is a changing area of probate law, Texas needs to follow other states’ leads and pass legislation that directly addresses inheritance rights of children conceived by rape.