Updated: Politically Incorrect Word Problem

(Originally posted on November 9, 2009)

A man and his wife are expecting their first child when he finds out that he has a terminal disease and will not likely live to see the birth of his child.  He writes a will with the following conditions:  1) If the child is a boy, the man’s assets will be divided such that the boy will receive 2/3 and the mother will receive 1/3.  2)  If the child is a girl, the mother will receive 2/3 of his assets and the daughter will receive 1/3.

The man dies, and the mother gives birth to…twins–one boy, and one girl.

You are the judge who will decide how the man’s assets will be distributed.  What fraction of the man’s assets would you give each individual, remembering that your job is to honor the deceased man’s intent?

I believe I originally saw this problem in Twenty Years Before the Blackboard by Michael Stueben or in Dr. Wilson’s EMAT 6600 course at UGA (I forget which came first.)

UPDATED:

I have always wanted to ask a lawyer about the validity of this problem, so recently, I did.  Here is the response:

“Under the scenario presented, I think Georgia law would require that all of the man’s assets pass to the wife upon his death.  I’m not sure you can leave your personal effects to someone who is not yet born.  If you can, then the “conditions” set forth by the man did not occur, i.e., birth of one son or birth of one daughter, so his “intent” cannot be fulfilled.  Therefore, all the assets would go to the spouse under Georgia law.”  (Name withheld pending permission to state name publicly.)



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