Estate Planning in the 21st Century

More than half a million cryopreserved embryos are now in storage somewhere in the United States. An unknown but far greater number of sperm donors have also made deposits that could be used for an expanding array of assisted reproductive technologies (ART). Putting aside any number of religious, ethical, and social issues, ART is also creating very difficult problems for some estates.

Biomedical science has made some incredible advances over the years and we can only expect that trend to continue and for science to yield ever more secrets about and tools over the human body. The law, however, has not made such advances – you’ll still find wills written as they were by 18th century scriveners and sprinkled with language like “party of the first part” and “witnesseth” – but then legal planning might just be forced to evolve. For your consideration: now there is such a thing as posthumous birth and post-mortem parenthood, as pointed out in this recent article as elsewhere.

Roughly half a million cryopreserved embryos and untold amounts of genetic material (sperm and ovum donations) line medical facility coolers around the country, and it’s not a novelty. An increasing number of couples have made plans to preserve the possibility of a child, either because they were having fertility issues; the financial situation imposed caution while the biological clock imposed haste, or precisely out of fear that one would pass away before there was an opportunity. It also means that an increasing number of children are being produced to parents who are no longer living, and there remains the ever-increasing possibility for grandchildren of the same nature. How do parents, grandparents, and estate planners at any juncture understand the ramifications?

Frankly it will require a moment to think about the possibility and to confer with your adult children to find out if it is a possibility that you might have grandchildren who were born after their parent passed away. In many ways this is a dilemma faced by a number of grandparents already if they are concerned about future generations, but unlike the normal situation there is no longer an intermediary adult child/parent through whom assets can pass. It’s a hard situation to define because the law hasn’t gotten that far. You might say that biomedical science can divorce the person from reproduction but estate law is intrinsically about the person, their property, choices, and family; how do these reconcile? It requires forethought on the part of the planner.

You can learn more about estate planning in the Estate Planning Practice Center on our website. Be sure to sign up for our free e-newsletter to stay abreast of issues like these that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.

Reference: US News and World Report (January 25, 2012) “Posthumous Births: An Emerging Estate Challenge

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We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
  • We launched the rollout of our on-demand webinar early so that new clients and our allied professionals can view the important component parts of ‘an estate plan that works’ at their convenience.  That is available on our website.
  • Live video workshops will be produced as quickly as possible and certainly ahead of our previous schedule; we will keep you posted as these events become available. Given the ‘boutique’ nature of the firm, we rarely have more than ten people in our office including team members at any one time. During this period of ‘social distancing,’ we promise to have no more than 8 people at any time.   This allows us to comply with the Governor’s directive to limit in-person gatherings.
  • The best way to communicate with us is still by phone during regular office hours of 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, or, you can email any of our team members (that is, their first name followed by @zarembalaw.com).  We will respond to these emails as quickly as possible.
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Thank you, Walt and the Zaremba Team

Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.