There’s renewed interest in a bill that would grant inheritance rights and Social Security benefits to a child conceived up to two years after the father’s death. University of Iowa Law professor Sheldon Kurtz says state law hasn’t kept up with advances in medicine, like sperm donation.
“The way our current parent/child laws are structured, at the time they were put together, the legislature had not thought about the problem for a very good reason — it was not possible,” Kurtz says. He says these days many soldiers are advised to “bank” their sperm before deploying in the case of injury or even death.
Kurtz backs legislation that would grants Social Security benefits and inheritance rights to a child conceived within two years after a father’s death. “Then in that case, the resulting child is one deemed to be — I hate to use this word, it’s so old fashioned — legitimate,” Kurtz says.
Representative Jeff Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, is sponsoring the legislation. He became interested in the issue after hearing the case of Patti Beeler of West Branch. Brynn Beeler was born 23 months after her father, Bruce, died of Leukemia. Beeler had banked his sperm prior to chemotherapy and, according to an affidavit filed by his wife, Patti, he urged her to have his children even if he didn’t survive. She is now fighting for Social Security benefits for their nearly eight-year-old child.
“I was so captured by that story, just the fact that the State of Iowa could make Patti and her daughter feel like they were a real family,” Kaufmann says. “That’s the happiness I get from this.” However, the bill Kaufmann is sponsoring is not “retroactive,” so it will not apply to the Beeler’s case.
A similar proposal easily won approval in the Iowa House last year, but failed to pass the Senate. Eleven states have similar laws, however most require the father to have signed some sort of legal document outlining his wish to sire a child after his death.