There are presently about 10,000 human embryos in frozen storage in embryo banks around the world, with the number rapidly increasing. There is no time limit to this storage, and embryos are often left orphaned when parents die or change their minds about the procedure. There are no common guidelines and very little legislation of this matter.
The death of the parents of live in vitro embryos or of embryos implanted in another's uterus, produced through artificial insemination or other means, raises the question of whether the embryos have legal status and whether they can be subject to donation, disposal, or custody.
Two orphaned embryos remained frozen and in legal custody pending a decision by the Australian Parliament as to their status. Both parents had died in a plane crash, leaving no instructions in their wills as to what to do with the embryos. Also in question was the inheritance of the $1 million fortune they left.