What does it mean to be "family" with 21st century science?

In law school we learned about the "fertile octogenarian" - a theoretical construct about what would happen to a property distribution scheme in an estate plan  if you had some wacky birth order situation (ie: my great-uncle is 60 years younger than me).  Back in 1995, this was largely theoretical.  Not so today in age of reproductive medicine advances and frozen embryos. It is quite possible in 2012 to have a biological child of yours born 1, 2 or 5 or more years after your death.  Did you mean to provide for this child that you never met in your Will?   You Will likely says "after my spouse dies, everything to my issue".  Your "issue" are your biological descendants, who this after-born child would be.  While this may seem just weird, it is entirely possible in toady's age,

The US Supreme Court actually just considered this issue.  A couple had frozen embryos, and about 9 months after the father died, the embryos were implanted and twins were eventually born.  The mother applied for social security for the twins, and the issue came up of if the children are "children" for the purposes of social security.  While it might seem very harsh to say that the children don't get benefits, when it comes to estate law you also need to bear in mind that an estate must end - it can't be held open forever waiting for heirs to come into being (an issue that didn't really exist 20 or more years ago).

In Astrue v. Capato the Supreme Court ruled that the Social Security Administration must look to state intestacy law to determine if a child would receive benefits under these circumstances.From a planning perspective, you should look to your own estate plan to determine who you think should be your descendants for purposes of distributing your estate, as merely relying on biology has a new meaning in 21st century medicine.

It's Going to Cost More to Go to Court in NJ - But Don't Blame the Lawyers

$50 million a year - that is what the Christie administration is hoping to raise by increasing court fees in New Jersey.  According to the Daily Record, there hasn't been an across the board increase is court fees since 1991.  While this represents an increase of 70%, the fees are apparently going to be used to modernize (please, please, please) the court system, as well as various justice related programs.

"The money would go toward three categories of spending, including $25 million to help fund various justice-related programs in the state budget that aren’t directly part of the court system, such as the State Police laboratory, DNA testing and the Victims of Crime Compensation Office.

Another $17 million would go toward the development of a statewide digital “e-court” system, a step toward eliminating paper in the courts by requiring electronic filings and providing public access to court records, similar to the federal courts’ PACER system. One key difference between New Jersey’s plan and PACER is that the state doesn’t plan to charge the public fees for looking at digital documents."

If the increase is passed, neither the Governor nor the Legislature will determine which fees will increase by what amount.  Instead, discretion is given to our Supreme Court to determine where the increases will take place.

Curious how much it costs to run our judicial system in New Jersey?  The Daily Record prepared a historical chart, together with the interesting fact that only about 10% of the judicial branch's budget comes from court fees - the other 90% is from the state's general budget.

 

FEE HIKE

Only about 10 percent of the state judiciary’s budget is currently supported by court fees, with the balance coming from the general state budget. The proposed fee increase is expected to generate $52 million a year -- a increase in revenue of more than 70 percent, though the money wouldn’t fund the judiciary’s general budget. 


COURT FEES, without fee increase: JUDICIARY, state budget: 
· 2013 … $72,008,000 2013 … $672,981,000 
· 2012 … $68,667,000 2012 … $670,481,000 
· 2011 … $65,120,000 2011 … $637,503,000 
· 2010 … $71,562,000 2010 … $608,196,000 
· 2009 … $68,455,000 2009 … $609,750,000 
· 2008 … $68,764,000 2008 … $605,482,000