At Your Death What Happens to Your Frozen Embryos?

Jul 14, 2017

With advances in technology, more families facing infertility are turning to treatment centers for help when starting a family. So, what happens to your frozen embryos at your death?

For the families who have undergone invitro fertilization or other infertility processes to conceive and have a child, there is a chance they may have genetic material stored with the treatment centers that have not been used. So what do they have stored exactly? Well, for men, they may have spermatozoon stored or for females– oocyte (these are called gametes). They may have undergone the IVF procedure and fertilized their gametes (outside the body) and formed embryos. For some, they may have extra embryos stored. So, the question then becomes, what happens to these unused gametes or embryos once a person is done having children?

There are several options for couples or individuals while they are living, but the real concern is: What happens if you have genetic material or frozen embryos at your death? It depends.

If your genetic materials were stored after 2004, then it is likely that you signed a contract with the doctor that details what should happen upon your death. It is important to make sure that your will or trust mirrors that plan.

If you have no contract or plan in place with the doctor, then it is important to make sure you discuss your intention and plans with respect to these genetic materials. Do you want them to be used after your death? Would a posthumously conceived child be considered your child for the purposes of your Will or Trust? Do you want the materials destroyed? If so, HOW do you want the materials destroyed?

Doctors are hesitant to destroy unclaimed genetic material. This is because of the ethical dilemma faced by doctors and the fear that a patient may come back and try to reclaim their embryos. This means they continue to store them. Which in turn means your estate may be liable for the continuous storage fees on these materials.

Further, if you don’t properly plan for these frozen embryos, then family members will be left with the decision on what to do. This can be a tricky situation, depending on who will be inheriting the embryos. Also, the storage facility can be considered a creditor of your estate.

More importantly, you do not want the embryos to end up in the wrong hands. California Probate Code states that a child conceived after the death of the decedent can inherit if there is clear and convincing evidence of certain conditions are satisfied. Be sure to discuss your stored genetic material when planning your estate. Contact our office to schedule a free consultation, (818)649-9110.

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