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Supreme Court rules twins can't receive benefits

The U.S. Supreme Court invoked Florida laws in ruling that the children of a man who has passed away are not eligible to receive benefits through Social Security.

The man's widow had applied for survivor benefits for her twins, who were conceived artificially after her husband died. Since the man was a legal Florida resident at the time of his death and the woman lived in the state when she received artificial insemination using his frozen sperm, the Supreme Court applied Florida's inheritance law.

Florida does not allow children conceived after a parent's death to receive inheritances other than what has been left to them in a will.

The woman was inseminated 18 months after her husband's death from cancer of the esophagus. She applied to the Social Security Administration for survivor benefits, but the agency turned her down, stating the children needed to have been conceived during their father's lifetime. The woman appealed that decision, and a federal judge sided with the decision by Social Security. The judge said that under state law, the children had to have been mentioned in his will.

While pregnant, the woman moved to a mid-Atlantic region state that has a state law that differs from Florida's. Under the jurisdiction then of the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, the case was appealed and overturned. The appellate judges said that the woman had proved that her late husband was the biological father of the children and that they should receive survivor benefits.

The U.S. Supreme Court justices unanimously overturned the lower court's ruling, stating that Florida laws must take precedence. The children were not named in his will and therefore do not qualify under Florida rules, according to the court. The man had named his wife, their son and his two children born to a prior wife in his will.

Since the couple banked the man's sperm, the possibility existed that he would father children in the future. Updating the man's will perhaps could have prevented this dispute.

Source: Associated Press, "Court: Twins conceived after dad's death using frozen sperm shouldn't get survivor benefits," May 21, 2012

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