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Home > Blog > Estate Planning (Wills, Trusts, Deeds, Business Succession) > Back Owed Child Support Can be Paid From Estate Assets in Probate

Back Owed Child Support Can be Paid From Estate Assets in Probate


When someone passes away, creditors can make claims on the deceased’s estate. We tend to think of creditors as companies that are owed money, but there’s always someone else that may be owed money when someone passes away: a minor child.

Unpaid Arrearages in Probate Court

Many people pass away, with back owed child support arrearages owed to the payee spouse. With multiple creditors potentially making claims on an estate, those who are owed child support may want to use the estate’s assets, to satisfy what the person owed before he or she passed away.

In probate court, back owed child support is treated as a creditor, and the estate’s assets can be used to satisfy outstanding back owed child support.

However, there is one major caveat: debts that a deceased owes, are classified by priority; the higher priority creditors or claims get paid first, and if there are remaining assets in the estate, the remaining creditors get paid. The problem with back owed child support arrears is that they are very far back on the priority list; they are actually 6th in line.

Before child support, the costs of administering the estate, funeral expenses, certain medical expenses incurred within 60 days of death, and any debt related to federal laws, have to be paid first, before back owed child support is even reached.

That means that even if the estate has assets, those assets may be depleted by the time that child support is reached. If they are, the claim won’t be paid. To avoid this problem, many divorcing couples allow life insurance to pay for back owed or continuing child support in the event a payor spouse passes away.

But many estates will not have all of those expenses, or may have significant assets, such to satisfy all the other liens, and reach child support.

Making a Claim

Note that like any debt, those who feel that they are owed back child support, must make a claim just like any creditor would in probate court. Missing the claims deadline, will bar the payee spouse from collecting on the back owed support.

And just like any creditor, any estate asset placed in an irrevocable trust, cannot be used to satisfy any creditor, including child support (revocable trusts, however, can be used to satisfy creditor claims).

Continuing Support

Another problem with getting child support in probate court is that you can only get back owed support—support that is in arrears. You cannot get continuing child support from the estate. So, the ability to collect continuing child support going forward terminates, with the death of the payor spouse.

Social security may provide some relief in this situation, as survivor benefits are available to minor unmarried children of deceased parents, and those benefits could be at or more than what the continuing child support obligations may have been.

Call the West Palm Beach estate planning lawyers at The Law Offices of Larry E. Bray today for help with your estate and probate needs.




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