Michigan Supreme Court Rules Twins Conceived by In Vitro Fertilization and Who Were In Gestation Only After Father’s Death Cannot Inherit Under Michigan’s Laws of Intestacy (In re Mattison)

This remarkable opinion issued from the Supreme Court yesterday, December 21, 2012.  In response to a certified question from the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, the Supreme Court held:  Children born after the death of a parent who were not “in gestation” at the time of the parent’s death may not inherit under Michigan intestacy law.

The Social Security Act authorizes disbursement of survivor benefits for children dependent on a deceased worker prior to his death.  Here, the children (twins conceived by in vitro fertilization using the deceased worker’s sperm) sought social security benefits.  The federal district court requested the Michigan Supreme Court to answer the question whether under Michigan’s law of intestacy, the children could have inherited survivor’s benefits in this case from the father.

The Court here answers no because, in short, there is no Michigan law that would allow for inheritance where the beneficiaries were not either born or in gestation at the time of the decedent’s death.

Although MCL 700.2114(1)(a) addresses paternity regarding children born of married parents, and addresses assisted reproductive technology, this statute is silent concerning children who are born by such methods after the marriage is terminated by death of one of the parties, i.e., the father.

Since there is no statutory provision that would contemplate intestate succession rights for the twins, they did not “survive” their father as his heirs in the eyes of the law.

Although the case addresses entitlement to social security benefits, it would apply to any benefits to which the children might be statutorily or otherwise entitled (in the absence of a testamentary instrument concerning same), including workers’ compensation benefits, etc.

The parties could have included a testamentary provision to allow for the entitlement and that would have likely removed the necessity to have the legal question answered by the Michigan Supreme Court as to whether or not and to what extent the statutory laws of intestacy did or did not accommodate the situation.

Here is the case:  In re Mattison (Certified Question)

About cjtucker06

Owner of law firm since July 2014; Handles all types of appellate matters and assists other lawyers with complex litigation and insurance coverage issues; Admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the State Bar of Michigan; Expertise in prosecuting and defending appeals with several significant successes in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals; Author of briefs amicus curiae in the Michigan Supreme Court for the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel and the Insurance Institute of Michigan; Represents Insurance Companies, Major International Business, Governmental Entities, Law Enforcement Officers and County Sheriffs. Board of Directors, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel Amicus Committee Co-Chair, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel Military - Retired Major in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps of the United States Army, Brigade Judge Advocate and Staff JAG officer for the Maneuver Training Center, Camp Grayling, Michigan; Recipient of the Army's Meritorious Service Medal (the highest medal of honor available to Soldiers serving in non-combat roles); 2012 Graduate of the Judge Advocate Officer Advanced Course, at The Judge Advocate Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Virginia. United States Navy Reserves, Combat Warfare Qualification, January 1989 to July 2003 Former law clerk to Justice Stephen J. Markman, Michigan Supreme Court, Research Attorney, Michigan Court of Appeals. Insurance Coverage Associate Plunkett Cooney; Environmental Law Attorney at Squire Sanders, now Squire Patton Boggs; Master's Degree in Environmental Law; Environmental Law Scholar, ALI/ABA Washington, D.C., Juris Doctorate, Vermont Law School, Environmental Editor, Vermont Law Review; Treasurer and Finalist, Moot Court Advisory Board.
Gallery | This entry was posted in May It Please the Court, Michigan Supreme Court Opinions, Recent Judicial Dispositions, Workers' Compensation Cases. Bookmark the permalink.

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