Volume 1, Issue 2
2nd Quarter, 2006

Possible Legal Rights of Cryogenically Revived Persons

Christopher Sega

This article was adapted from a lecture given by Christopher Sega, Esq. at the 1st Annual Colloquium on the Law of Transhuman Persons, December 10, 2005, at the Space Coast Office of Terasem Movement, Inc. in Melbourne Beach, FL.

Sega is a partner at Venable LLP of Maryland. Sega's practice involves advising closely-held corporations and high net worth individuals on estate, gift and retirement planning issues. Sega identifies and discusses three possible categories of persons revived from a cryogenic state or biostasis. He offers a skilled view of the rights they possess in comparison to existing laws, such as wills and trusts; and proposes areas in which greater emphasis will be required to adequately service all the foreseeable needs of the revived individual.

Currently, there is no established law on cryogenically preserved persons, so we must draw from existing laws that apply to similar Segasituations. First, we must distinguish what the rights of a revived person ought to be, and then we can identify ways to protect those rights. We must also consider how those rights relate to the institution in which the person is suspended, heirs, descendants, and third parties, such as financial institutions or the state.

The rights depend on the identity of the revived person. That identity can take on three distinct possibilities. If there is full psychological continuity, then the revived person is the same person that was preserved. If there are significant changes in the personality of the individual, then they might not be the same person, but more like an heir or descendant of that person. In this case, we can look to the law that applies to heirs and descendents of deceased persons, by way of analogy, to define the rights of the revived person. Finally, if there is a total transformation into a completely new person, then the law would be entirely different. We will consider each of these situations as we examine the property, financial, and personal rights of a revived person.

Property and Financial Rights
Property and financial rights involve the right to hold and to sell property. They also include the right to receive and control an inheritance and to designate how assets are distributed upon death. Other relevant financial rights regarding revived persons are Social Security, retirement benefits, and insurance payments.

There are two competing principles in property law. One is that a person should have the right to control property, which means being able to hold it and determine what you want to do with it. Yet this right is circumscribed; it is not unlimited. This is to ensure that a person is not going to control property indefinitely or hold it in perpetuity. Property should pass to the next generation or to another buyer. This gave rise to the Rule Against Perpetuities, which is the notion that property has to vest to another person within 21 years after the owner's death.

There are a number of states that have repealed the Rule Against Perpetuities, resulting in tension between a historical rule that says a person cannot hold property indefinitely and states that say that a person can hold property indefinitely. Other states have put limits on that indefinite period. For example, Florida limits it to 360 years. Maryland also has a similar limitation on real property. It is important that a person who will be cryogenically preserved choose a state as her domicile that protects her property rights indefinitely. Otherwise, she might lose her property before she is revived.

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