What Happens to Child Support or Maintenance Payments If My Ex Dies?

You have been granted either spousal maintenance or child support, what happens if your ex dies?

Maintenance or spousal support terminates when the paying spouse dies.   Ordinarily, unless arrears are owed, the recipient of the payment has no claim against the payer’s estate.   It is for this reason, that I strongly encourage all periodic payments like maintenance and child support to be secured by a life insurance policy.    In this way, if the paying spouse dies and the payments terminate, the recipient will, at least, receive a lump sum payment.  

The amount of insurance should, minimally, be equal to the sum of the payments to be made.   In the case of securing child support, I often suggest that the insurance cover the total amount of child support to be paid plus the anticipated costs of college. 

Jeff Landers  astutely suggests that the spouse receiving the payments purchase the insurance. 

Once again, if your ex-husband is the higher earner who is paying alimony and/or child support, I highly recommend you purchase a life insurance policy on him in order to secure these important divorce settlement payments . . . you should be both the owner of the policy and the beneficiary –because that way you can be sure that the premiums will be paid on time and the beneficiary(s) won’t be changed without your knowledge and consent.

For those with the means, I further suggest the payments be secured with a disability insurance policy as well.   In this way, if the payer does not die, but merely is disabled and unable to work, the child support or maintenance payments continue. 


4 Responses

  1. Andrew Mills
    My ex wife has cancer and she has made a will, her mortgage will be paid off through an insurance policy and there will be around 160k in equity from selling the house which is going to be split between her new partner and our 3 children so 40k each. The money for the kids is going to be put in a trust fund till they are 21 years old. I have paid maintenance every month with no miss payments. My question is am I entitled to some of the equity as I will have custody of my kids and I will need to financially support them.
  2. If you are divorced, unless you have an ownership interest in the house, you are not entitled to anything from the sale of the house. Your maintenance payments do not create a lien on her estate.
  3. Kenny Jones
    What I am trying to understand is this: My current husband's ex wife was awarded a whopping sum of $4500 a month . $3500 a month in alimony and $1000 a month in child support. His child support is current but after loosing his job 7 years ago as a CEO, he has been unable to secure another position making the same amount of money. So, he became $100,000 in arrears. $36k is child support and the rest alimony. His daughters were 19 and 20 when they divorced so only a few years of child support they were emancipated at 21. It is a NY divorce. So here is our questions, we learned his ex-wife had a heart attack and passed away unexpectedly last week Will the children be entitled to the past due alimony as part of her estate? Will the children be entitled directly to the arrears of child support? Or is it all wiped clean? Any advise would be great.
  4. Based on my understanding of the facts, mom died with maintenance and child support arrears owed to her. The beneficiaries of her estate can collect the debt.

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