Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Eighth Circuit Rules Posthumously Conceived Child Not Entitled to Social Security Survivor Benefits

CarriageBruce Beeler was diagnosed with cancer and banked his sperm before undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Bruce died at age thirty-seven, before he and his wife, Patti, conceived any children. After her husband’s death, Patti used Bruce’s sperm to conceive her daughter Brynn (now eight) through in-vitro fertilization.

Patti filed for Social Security survivor benefits for Brynn shortly after Brynn’s birth, and the federal government denied the claim stating that Brynn did not qualify for benefits under Iowa law. Patti appealed the decision, and in 2009 a federal judge ruled that Brynn was eligible for over $150,000 in benefits. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals recently heard the case and overruled the federal judge’s ruling Monday, finding that the government had given a “reasonable” interpretation of Iowa’s law.

Interestingly, Brynn’s case caused Iowa to change its law regarding posthumously conceived children. The new law allows posthumously conceived children born two years after the deceased parent’s death to receive Social Security benefits and inheritance rights. Since the law is not retroactive, however, it does not apply to Brynn’s case.

See Iowa Girl Conceived After Father’s Death Not Entitled to Benefits, Appeals Court Rules, FoxNews, Aug. 30, 2011.

Special thanks to Adam J. Hirsch (William and Catherine VanDercreek Professor of Law, Florida State University College of Law) for bringing this to my attention.


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