If you were receiving alimony payments or child support from a former spouse, and they have passed, it is important to know your rights regarding the support you were entitled to receive. When payments stop, many who relied on these payments for financial security seek options for recovery. If you have found yourself in this unfortunate situation, contact an attorney today to discuss your specific claims and methods in which you may be able to recover some financial assistance.
There are two forms of support that are given in a family law case; child support and alimony. These forms are different in many aspects including their purpose, duration, and enforcement procedures. Therefore, they will need to be addressed independently.
If your former spouse has passed away and you had an ongoing alimony award, these future payments will automatically terminate. Under Florida Law, durational, bridge the gap, and permanent alimony terminates automatically upon the death of either the recipient or obligated party. Therefore, you may not bring a claim against your former partner’s estate for future alimony payments. However, you are able to account for this loss prior to the death of an obligated party. Within your divorce settlement, you may require the spouse to take out a life insurance policy with you as the beneficiary and in the event of his death you will receive these benefits as a replacement of the future alimony payments. Further, you may contract around the Florida Statue in your divorce settlement by agreeing that the obligated spouse’s estate will be responsible for paying the alimony awards you are entitled to. However, these statements must be explicit in the agreement.
However, there are two exceptions to this general rule, liberating the decedent’s estate of responsibility for this award: if the alimony award was categorized as lump sum or the decedent owed back alimony payments. In Kuchera v. Kuchera, the court held that because the alimony award was lump sum and the obligated party passed prior to making this payment, the estate remains liable. This form of alimony vested prior to the death and therefore, no event can cut off this award. Similarly, if the obligated spouse had failed to make certain payments prior to their death the estate will remain liable for those missed payments, as they had vested in the recipient during the life of the obligated party. In these cases, you would file a claim with the estate as a creditor or bring a court action to establish a levy on the estate property to receive the entitled payments.
Child support is treated in a similar manner, as the deceased parent’s estate has no continuing obligation to pay child support for the child; however, the estate will be responsible for any back child support. Under Florida Statute 733.707, the expenses of an estate are paid in a specific order, with back child support having a ranking of 6. Therefore, if there is not enough money in the estate, the support payments you are entitled to may not ever be received. To circumvent the issue of a parent’s passing causing a loss of financial assistance for the child, the parties may want to establish a life insurance policy with the child as the beneficiary, set up a trust for the benefit of the child, or look to the Social Security Administration for benefits the parent obtained through their employment.
Loss of any form of financial support can become a devastating factor to individual financial security. Therefore, it is important to know your options and seek counsel to explain the methods in which you may seek recovery of these funds. Contact a lawyer to discuss your specific case, support awards, and discover any relief that may be available to you and your family.
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