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In Beeler v. Astrue, a recent case that I discussed at length in Part One of this series of columns, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that a child known as B.E.B. was not the legal daughter of Bruce Beeler, whose sperm had been used to impregnate his widow about a year after he died.

The paternity issue arose because B.E.B.’s mother, Patti Beeler, had applied to the Social Security Administration on B.E.B.’s behalf for surviving-child benefits. The appellate court ruled that a survivor is a “child” of a wage-earning decedent only if intestacy law (that is, the law regarding the estates of persons who die without a will) in the state where the wage-earner was domiciled at death would treat her as such. Because Iowa law did not then recognize the parent–child relationship for posthumously conceived children, B.E.B. was not Bruce’s “child” within the meaning of the Social Security Act. ...

In this column, I will consider the patchwork legal landscape that exists today with respect to this issue, as well as the basic principles that ought to guide future regulation in this area.



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