The U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision yesterday in the case of Astrue v. Capato. The court ruled unanimously that the children conceived through artificial insemination after the death of Mr. Capato were not entitled to Social Security survivor benefits.
The decision turned on the inheritance laws in the state in which the children were conceived, in this case Florida. Florida law provides that a posthumously conceived child cannot inherit from its deceased parent unless left in a last will and testament. In Mr. Capato’s case, he did have a last will and testament but did not name any unconceived children as heirs.
Consequently, the Supreme Court found that the text of the Social Security statute prevailed and that the children were not entitled to benefits. The children’s mother argued that the children were residents of New Jersey (which did allow for inheritance to children conceived after death of a parent) since she moved there while still pregnant. However, the Court did not find this argument persuasive and used the laws of the state where the children were conceived.
According to Louisiana law, a posthumously conceived child can inherit if the deceased parent authorized, in writing, the surviving spouse to use the deceased’s genetic material for conception, and the child must be born within three years of the death of the parent. Thus, according to the Astrue v. Capato, in order to receive Social Security survivor benefits, a Louisiana resident would have to have consent for the conception and birth and the child would have to be born within three years following the death of the parent.