Although you may no longer be together, the death of an ex-spouse can still be a heartbreaking event. In addition to dealing with the emotional difficulties that typically follows such an occurrence, you must contend with the various practicalities that also crop up, which includes the issue of financial support for minor children. Here's what you need to know about how the death of your ex-spouse impacts any child support payments he or she pays or receives.
When the Payer Dies
If your ex-spouse was current on his or her child support obligation, the payments will end upon the person's death. The person's estate is not required to continue those payments or pay out a lump sum to cover the remaining years until the child (or children) turns 18.
However, the person's estate is responsible for paying off any arrearages the individual may have had. For instance, if your ex-spouse owed $5,000 in back child support, you are well within your rights to file a claim with his or her estate and collect the amount owed. You must have an official support order authorized by the court, though. Additionally, you can only collect the amount due up to the date the person passed away. As noted previously, you cannot collect for future payments.
One way many couples guard against the possibility that the spouse responsible for paying support may pass away before the support order is fulfilled is to purchase life insurance in an amount that would cover the individual's support obligation until the child or children turn 18.
For example, a person who is ordered to pay $500 per month for a 13-year-old minor may want to buy life insurance policy worth $30,000 or more. This way, the child will receive a lump sum that can be used to pay child care expenses.
Either parent can take out the life insurance policy, and the policy can be cancelled once the child turns 18 or continued at either parent's discretion.
If there are sufficient assets, the paying parent can also make arrangements to have his or her estate continue making the payments even after he or she is gone by setting up a testamentary trust. This is a special trust created under a will that includes money and assets that is disbursed to the beneficiary by a trustee according to the creator's wishes.
This type of trust can be set to expire at any time and is a good option for parents who are concerned with making sure the money provided goes directly to the children produced by the relationship.
When the Payee Dies
If you are the one paying support and the person receiving it dies, you are still obligated to pay the money as agreed. Additionally, the death of your ex-spouse does not wipe out an arrearages owed. You will be required to continuing pay back child support until you are completely caught up, even if the children turn 18 during that time period.
Typically you will be directed to submit the support payments to the trustee of your ex-spouse's estate or the probate court, who will then distribute the funds as required by the court. If you do not obtain full custody of the kids, the family court will eventually amend the support order so the payments are sent to the children's new legal guardian.
Navigating the child support issue after a spouse passes away can be a challenging issue and one that both parents should consider before an eventuality occurs. If you're currently going through a divorce, it's essential you work with an attorney to come up with solutions that ensures you receive the financial support you need to take care of your children despite any unfortunate situation that may occur.
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