What Happens When a Dad Who Owes Child Support Dies?

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

What Happens When a Dad Who Owes Child Support Dies?

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

Typically, if a father who owes child support passes away, these payments can still be obtained. The surviving custodial parent can pursue several ways to ensure continued financial assistance. However, you should review your state's laws to understand child support payments after the father's death as these rules vary.

Snuggling mother and son

Check for Life Insurance Policies

The custodial parent should determine if any life insurance policies existed at the time of the father's death. Often, in divorce, the parents name their children as beneficiaries in a life insurance policy in case either parent passes away. The father may have taken out a life insurance policy for the benefit of his children in case he died prematurely.

If a life insurance policy exists, then the surviving parent should contact the insurance company to collect the proceeds on behalf of the child. The insurance company may require a death certificate before distributing any money.

File a Claim Against the Estate

The custodial parent should also determine if the father had any assets, such as a retirement plan, investments, equity in a house or business, automobiles, or bank accounts. The father's estate can make child support payments through his assets.

To access these assets, the surviving parent must file a timely claim against the father's estate. Although child support takes top priority when distributing an estate's property, other creditors are also in line. You should understand the process for filing against the father's estate, which is governed by state law. If the father has a complicated estate, meaning he had significant assets, you may want to contact an experienced probate attorney to help you.

Contact the Social Security Administration

If the father worked for a significant period, then the custodial parent may seek payments from the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration pays out two different types of benefits upon a parent's death: a one-time death benefit and/or a survivor benefit. Unmarried children under 18 years old are entitled to the father's survivor benefits. If no spouse exists, then children also receive a one-time payment of $255.

To receive these benefits, the custodial parent must complete an application for benefits on behalf of the child within two years of the father's death. Contact your local Social Security office to request the necessary paperwork and discuss your child's eligibility for benefits.

Determine if Child Support Arrears Exist

If a father owed back child support, or arrears, before he died, the child is entitled to this amount. The father's estate must pay any overdue child support. Typically, the estate pays these financial obligations before other beneficiaries named in the will receive assets.

If this amount is not paid out of the father's life insurance policies or from the estate upon his death, the surviving parent can file a claim in probate court for owed payments. If the child reaches 18 and the support is still due, then the child can sue the father's estate for the amount owed.

A father's death creates many issues for a divorced family, creating a loss of both emotional and financial support. On the financial side, it's important to understand how a father's death impacts his child support payments. The surviving parent should seek peace of mind by understanding all opportunities to obtain child support in the event of the father's death.

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