Children of Assisted Reproduction vs. Old Dynasty Trusts: A New Approach
Forthcoming Issue 57 of the San Diego Law Review, May/June 2020.
63 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2019
Date Written: September 16, 2019
Today, thousands of children are born each year using assisted reproduction technology (ART), including assisted insemination, in vitro fertilization, and gestational carriers, and the numbers continue to rise. Many of these children are not genetically related to one or both of their parents because donated gametes are used; in cases where a gestational carrier gives birth, the intended parents may adopt the child even if they are the genetic parents. Some of these ART children may find themselves clashing head on with old dynasty trusts that presume that adoptees are excluded from class terms such as “issue,” “descendants” or “grandchildren,” and require all beneficiaries to be related by blood to the settlor. Two recent cases, McGehee v. Edwards, 268 Va. 15 (2004) and Matter of Doe, 7 Misc. 3d 352 (N.Y. 2005) have raised this issue, but we are likely to see many more in the next few years.
Will courts treat ART children just as they have treated adopted children, parsing the difference between “issue,” “lineal descendants,” “heirs of the body,” “heirs,” and other class terms; debating whether the writer’s intent or public policy should prevail; and raising questions about whether a change in the common law presumption may or should be applied retroactively? Or should an entirely different approach be used, one that allows us to avoid extensive litigation, the invasion of privacy that extensive DNA testing would produce, and the inevitable stigmatization of children of same-sex couples who can’t be biologically related to both people raising them? This article examines the language of 74 old wills and trusts, ones that are already up and running and cannot be amended, to see if there is a better way to deal with ART children. Can the trustee use doctrines such as decanting to solve this dilemma? Can courts be persuaded to broaden their approach so that trustees or executors can accurately predict what these terms mean, and not flood the courts with requests for instructions? I will propose solutions that might just do that.
Keywords: Artificial reproduction technology, dynasty trusts, DNA, right of privacy, decanting, adoption, same-sex
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