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Test Tube Babies and Estate Planning / York, PA

MP900448410The illegitimate child who emerges from obscurity to claim a family inheritance is a staple of Victorian melodrama. Today, some families are grappling with a 21st-century twist on that narrative—one where the child is conceived years after a parent’s death, with the help of frozen sperm or eggs.

You might say that planning for your estate is about tying together all of the loose ends of your life. That’s always been easier said than done. However, it seems with every passing generation our lives get that much more complicated. Medicine, especially fertility medicine, continues to baffle the legal system. The perfect example of that is posthumous progeny (how is that even a phrase?) through cryogenics, in vitro fertilization, and entirely understandable timing. It’s been in the news before, but MarketWatch recently took up the topic in an article titled “Your frozen sperm could inherit your estate.

Inheritance, unless you plan otherwise, legally flows from generation to generation or simply the closest kin in lieu of that next generation. It’s an age-old concept and logically follows the nature of human reproduction. On the other hand, that can get pretty complicated when we stop reproducing as they always have (as in only the ways they could) in ages past.

Artificial insemination is a different concept entirely, and there are enough legal battles just beginning to prove how murky it can become (think child-support for a sperm donor.) Artificial insemination plus cryogenic preservation of sperm/egg samples gives rise to the possibility that the father need not be alive when his children are born, and not by a short time frame either. Moreover, that’s expressly the point with so many couples. Many preserve genetic materials so that they can ensure for future children, say before going into military service or before starting an invasive medical regimen like chemotherapy.

The everyday has subtly begun to incorporate these new medical advances well before the legal system has had a chance to take it all in. That means you have to be all the more aware of these new loose ends of your life as you set about to plan for your estate. If you’ve preserved or donated genetic material, it’s a topic worth thinking about.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: MarketWatch (May 30, 2014) “Your frozen sperm could inherit your estate

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Legal Mistakes, Cut-Corners, And The Inheritance Of Litigation / York, PA

MP900442402I, unfortunately, frequently encounter situations where legal mistakes made during a lifetime can create a mess at death …

Sometimes even a good estate plan can run into dire straits when the universe throws you a curveball. On the other hand, more often than not, when an estate plan fails and litigation follows it is because the estate plan was not a good plan at all. Legal mistakes and cut-corners are liabilities not worth keeping on the books, as a growing body of case law goes to show. Do not let a legal mistake haunt your estate, your assets or your family after you are gone.

When it comes to estate planning, the liability of legal mistakes and cut-corners has a special kind of edge to it since it is so often the family or your partners who end up feeling the burden or even winding up in litigation. What do these cases look like and what terrible mistakes have been made?

Forbes recently compiled a quick list of recent litigation and legal cautionary tales worth perusing in an article titled “Legal Mistakes That Haunt After Death: Three Cases.

Consider the following:

·         Selzer v. Dunn, or, ‘why you should always ensure that an entire plan is in writing and in place before you rely upon it.’ This was the case of two business partners who took out life insurance policies on one another ostensibly to fund a buy-sell agreement, but no buy-sell agreement was ever drafted. The family of the deceased was stuck with the shares to the company rather than the life insurance money intended to buy them out.

·         Aldrich v. Basile, or, ‘why DIY will writing and fill-in forms can get you into hot water.’ Here is the case where a do-it-yourself will writing kit could not properly account for state law, leading part of the family to argue the intent of a codicil to change the will was clear while the other half of the family argued it was unenforceable.

·         PHL Variable Insurance Company v. Bank of Utah, or, ‘why lying on legal documents is just a bad idea and maybe outright fraud.’ Here, the deceased had lied extensively on his life insurance application (inflating his value to at least ten times what could truthfully be underwritten) and naturally the discovery of this fact led the insurer to cancel the payout altogether by reason of fraud.

Sometimes it is obvious what can go wrong, and sometimes it just takes a practiced mind to understand the issues that can arise. Regardless, never is a simple (or grand) legal mistake a worthy gift to your inheritors. If it is important enough to plan, then it is important enough and even necessary to plan well.

For more information about legal mistakes, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Forbes (May 13, 2014) “Legal Mistakes That Haunt After Death: Three Cases

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