Professor Browne Lewis Presents at Wills, Trust and Estates Meets Gender, Race and Class Conference

Leon M. and Gloria Plevin Professor of Law Browne Lewis presented at the Second Wills, Trust and Estates Meets Gender, Race, and Class Conference.  Professor Lewis’ presentation was entitled Beyond Sex: The Inheritance Rights of Children Conceived Using Assisted Reproductive Technology.  The intestacy system was created when families were primarily formed by procreation in a marriage. Therefore, marital children have often been give preferential treatment when it comes to inheriting under the intestacy system.  As a consequence of the availability and use of assisted reproductive technology, families are being created in a variety of ways.  For example, some mothers have been permitted to have sperm extracted from the bodies of their dead sons, so they can conceive their own grandchildren. In addition, some gay men have purchased donor eggs and hired surrogates in order to achieve fatherhood.  The intestacy succession laws have not kept up with the technology.  Consequently, children conceived using assisted reproductive technology may not be afforded the opportunity to inherit under the intestacy system.   As a result, those children may be disadvantaged because of the manner in which they were conceived. State intestacy laws need to be modified to reflect the fact that there is no longer a default “traditional” family. Children are given preferential treatment under the intestacy system because legislators assume that parents want their property to go to their children after they die.  That assumption should not be negated by the fact that a child is not conceived through sexual intercourse.  Persons using assisted reproductive technology are often desperate to have children. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that those persons would want their children to inherit if they die intestate.

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