Social Security Benefits for Posthumously Conceived Kids?


The Wall Street Journal has an intriguing blogpost today about one of the legal conundrums surrounding children conceived using dead men's sperm. The Journal's Law Blog reports:

Every year, more babies are born stemming from sperm or embryos that have been stored for months or years. In some cases, one parent has already died at the time of birth or conception, usually the father.

Although the federal government generally must pay monthly benefits to children when parents die, the law is murky on whether it has to do the same for a child conceived after a parent's death.

The Journal notes that a kid would qualify for Survivor's Benefits if his or her dad happened to die before they are born. So should the timing of the father's death, i.e., before actual conception, make a difference?

Sometimes, the Social Security Administration pays, sometimes it doesn't. So far, the decision has largely depended on the laws in the state in which the deceased parent lived.

But state laws on posthumous birth—or the birth of a child after the death of a parent—vary widely. Eleven states explicitly allow recognition of a parent-child relationship that begins with posthumous conception. The laws of most states, however, define the parent-child relationship more traditionally. For the relationship to exist, a parent must be alive at the time of conception.

My Solomonic solution: Just abolish Social Security. 

NEXT: Citizen Science, Microfinanced Research, Patent Trolls, and Pharma Prizes

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give survivor’s benefits to half and no survivor’s benefits to the other half.”

    1. “Done, your highness. Now which half gets which?”

  2. Although the federal government generally must pay monthly benefits to children when parents die, the law is murky on whether it has to do the same for a child conceived after a parent’s death.

    Makes me wonder about the omniscience of our Great Leaders and Overseers. Could it be that, despite what the Tonys and MNGs of the world believe, they could be (gasp!) fallible???

    Perish the thought!!!

    1. Never. Upon election, you can see a glow descend on the elected and the boon of wisdom enter his immortal soul. The dim, the dull, are transformed by mere electoral majority into brilliant, urbane and judicious keepers of the public.

    2. Preemptive strike with the Cliff Notes version of the progressive response. “Blah Blah Blah … universal child allowance … blah blah blah Republican’s fault.”

  3. I’m having a hard time saying that anyone “survives” someone who died before they were born, much less conceived.

    The survivor’s benefit is supposed to take the place of parental support. But there was never going to be any parental support for these kids; the mother knew the father wasn’t going to be earning when she conceived the little zombie.

    1. I don’t think when Social Security was founded, a child being posthumously born to a father who died due to industrial accident or disease or whatnot was all that uncommon that it was not a circumstance the system was designed to account for. Of course, at that time a child conceived after either of its parents had taken a dirt nap was outside of reality so all we have is ad hoc guidelines on how to deal with such circumstances.

      1. It is not ad hoc to say that the survivor’s benefit is insurance against planned future income suddenly disappearing. Actions taken based on that planned future income — say, conceiving a baby — are what is covered by that insurance.

        There is no planned future income for a dead person. Therefore there is no loss of planned future income to insure against for a baby conceived by a dead person.

        They should not get survivor’s benefits.

        1. Given that such a child could be born a theoretically infinite time afterward I agree with no benefits.

          What I trying to get at was that likely no well thougt out policy regarding this, it has all been done as circumstnaces arise and therefore incoherent.

  4. If you’re conceived after someone’s death, you’re not a “survivor” of that person, it seems to me.

    So should the timing of the father’s death, i.e., before actual conception, make a difference?

    Yes. Survivor’s benefits exist to prevent unexpected undue hardship on the kid (as I understand it). To the extent that the benefits make sense at all, they make sense in that context. They don’t make sense when it is known in advance that the dad won’t be working to provide for the kid so much as he will be decomposing.

  5. If the mother and the father were unmarried and the deceased had no will nor any surviving descendants, does the child have a claim on the estate?

    1. Where can I get sperm of a dead billionaire? I might have a plan.

      1. Worked for me!

        Oh, wait, I’m dead, too.

  6. Just abolish Social Security.

    Ohhhhh no you don’t. I haven’t been paying into that all these years just so gramps and granny can run out the clock in relative comfort. I’ve been paying into it because I expect something for myself in the coming years. I want the entertainment of watching Social Security implode on its own.

  7. So when I’m at the Pearly gates and the old guy asks me if I had any children, I can say “None that I knew of” and it won’t be a joke anymore.

  8. In some cases, one parent has already died at the time of birth or conception, usually the father.

    Yes, they will pry it from your cold, dead hands.

    1. You’ll have my DNA when you pry it from my cold, dead, sticky hands.

  9. Please insert my usual “I deny them my essence” joke.

  10. So maybe sperm banks can check up on who gets hit by a car and start advertising free SS benefits with select turkey basters.

  11. dead men’s sperm

    Pirates of the Caribbean 5

  12. As an artist, I am constantly struggling to find ways to challenge the limits of my chosen medium, which is sperm, and push my audience toward a higher level of both cognition and meta cognition–to see, in other words, the art beyond the art, the way the art steps beyond being an object of “art,” so to speak, and invokes a definition that calls into question the very fabric of life and existence and our species’ interaction with the physical and emotional world. For example, my last piece, “Jerking Off On The Orange Line,” was intended to push the boundaries of physical expression and inspire self-reflection among the three Catholic high school girls at the end of the car, whose expectation of a Metro ride without the opportunity to witness another human masturbating was challenged–I think, for the better. Its follow-up piece, “Running Pantless Through the Station,” was a breathless exploration of the nexus where the tyranny of law enforcement intersects with the vibrant pulse of individuality and liberal expression. “My Cock In Her Sleeping Mouth,” perhaps one of my most controversial pieces, explored the biological, social, physical, and emotional consequences of one-sided fellatio, and often misunderstood expression of deep, abiding affection. Its follow-up, “Ejaculate on Her Forehead,” takes this a step further, calling into question the ideas of what it means to “own” ones own skin. Symbolically, in turning her white with my love, I am exploring complex issues of race and challenging my audience to question their own biases, prejudgments, and narrow world views.

    1. I hereby award you one internetz.

  13. It would be morally wrong to end SS payments to America’s seniors.

  14. I think the current rule is that the child has to be born within three years of the parent’s death, but don’t quote me on that.

  15. The only way Social Security benefits can be abolished given the political climate is to limit eligibility for benefits to people born before a certain date, like January 1, 2011 for an example.

    That way, current beneficiaries will not have their benefits cut, and they will not have any problem against politicians who support denying benefits to future generations.

  16. This looks like a start-up glitch in storing DNA information. Once it becomes common practice for two generations to store DNA information replacement zombie-daddies will solve the problem.

  17. So many people on this board want to discriminate against children – *children* – by denying them survivor’s benefits based on a purely arbitrary date – the date of their father’s (or sometime’s mother’s) death. ?

    How heartless! How cruel! How bigoted against alternative lifestyles! ?

    I suppose you all think you live in some Fifties sitcome paradise where every family consists of Dad going to work in the ad agency, and Mom staying at home with the 2.1 kids. But modern families take all sorts of forms, including mom plus kids conceived by sperm of deceased father. I suppose you want to discriminate in favor of the so-called ‘traditional family’ and against sexual minorities. You heartless fascists! ?

    Sure, ultimately it would be a good idea to get rid of Social Security, but in the interim it should be administered in a non-discriminatory way. I mean, what if you only paid out social security benefits to white people, but not to black people? You could save a lot of money that way, but it would be discriminatory. And since it has already been established on this board that lifestyle discrimination is the equivalent of racial discrimination, it follows that if you advocate discriminating against the children of fathers who died before their (the children’s) conception is the moral equivalent of Bull Connor. ?

    1. it follows that if you advocate discriminating against the children of fathers who died before their (the children’s) conception, you are the moral equivalent of Bull Connor. ?
      reply to this

  18. This is the LA Times. Los Angeles has a large Asian population. The dog that didn’t bark. Did you read the part Greg’s column about Asians being denied admission to CA universities because there were already too many of the meet the diversity schedules? Neither did I.

    1. Oops. Wrong thread. I’m flogging myself with a wet noodle.

  19. Interesting that the law cannot define when fatherhood begins, but then uses “legal fictions” as the actual basis for laws. For example in wills/estate law, the “Fertile Octogenarian” rule assumes that all people are fertile up into senior years. Amazing!
    See also:…..uandaries/

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.