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Transgender Beneficiaries: In Becoming Who You Are Do You Lose The Benefits Attached To Who You Were?

Ashleigh C. Rousseau

June 18, 2020


In 2019, Ashleigh C. Rousseau published a Note entitled, Transgender Beneficiaries: In Becoming Who You Are, Do You Lose the Benefits Attached to Who You Were?, in the Hofstra Law Review. Below is an introduction of the Note.

Suppose William Smith, father of Joseph Smith, executes a will to leave his estate to his children. In his will, the phrase "to my son, Joseph" is used, preceding a bequest for the property. Before William dies, Joseph embraces her transgender identity, obtains a lawful name change to Julia, obtains a lawful gender marker change, and undergoes sex confirmation surgery. William dies, and his estate is divided. Is Julia still entitled to Joseph's portion of William's estate? In embracing her transgender identity, is she deprived of her right to inherit? 

This Note explores the implications of not only a name change but also a change in gender for a beneficiary named in a will using their previous identity. Raising a question, may a transgender individual accept their bequest under the will when a decedent names a transgender individual as a beneficiary and uses that individual's birth name and gender? This Note will first talk about being transgender and the social and legal obstacles that transgender individuals face on a regular basis. It will then explore the obstacles presented if their transition occurred after a will was written using their previous identity.

Read the Note Here