Published on:

Genetic Material is an Asset of Your Estate

With the advances in reproductive medical technology we are now seeing genetic material including sperm, eggs, stem cells, and even embryos being stored. Such genetic material is stored in a cryobank for later use, but what happens when the individual who stored the material dies? Is a child born posthumously entitled to inherit from its parent? The Courts have ruled that genetic material is property which like any other property can be bought, sold, or transferred so can you leave it to someone in your will?

The case of Brandalynn v Vernoff addressed the question of the rights of a child conceived with the sperm of a dead man. Sperm had been extracted from her father when he died in 1999 and were later used to perform an invitro fertilization on the widow which led to her birth. The courts ruled that the child, although born posthumously, had the rights to inherit from her father. There is a time limit in California. The sperm has to be used to create a child within 2 years from the death of the donor or the child will not have any entitlement to inheritance.

All of these issues should be addressed before you die. You can of course set up a sperm deposit while you are alive, however you should set out in an agreement with the cryobank what should be done with the sperm upon your death.

Your also should discuss with your estate planning attorney how to make your wishes part of your trust agreement. If you would want genetic material taken at the time of death and stored for some purpose, you should spell your wishes out in your advance health care directive giving your agent, trustee, or executor the power to extract such material from you after death. If you have stored these type of genetic material before your death, your trustee or executor needs to be guided as to what should be done with it.

If you would like to consult with one of the estate planning lawyers at Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation to see how these issues can be addressed in your estate plan, call us for a complimentary consultation.

Contact Information