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Can child support be sought from a deceased parent's estate?

The passing of a loved one is undoubtedly an emotionally difficult time, even if the recently deceased was a non-custodial parent who was delinquent on child support obligations. In these instances, a custodial parent may feel like a vulture over roadkill, but the reality is that a deceased parent’s child support obligations may not pass into the afterlife with them. Like other debts, creditors have a right to initiate appropriate actions to obtain payments on outstanding debt.

With that said, a custodial parent is at liberty to discover if the deceased parent made provisions in the will, or their estate plan, for the support of any surviving children.  Chances are that an insurance policy names the child as a beneficiary, or a trust was created with the same intentions. 

If the non-custodial parent died intestate (without a will) or other financial arrangements for the child, the surviving parent may initiate a claim against the estate for past-due support payments owed. However, New York law is specific in exempting assets from being seized and used to pay off outstanding debt, including a 401(k) account, life insurance policies that name someone other than the surviving child as a beneficiary, as well as homestead property.

If a custodial parent wishes to take action against a deceased parent’s estate, he or she must do so within the statute of limitations established by state law. An experienced probate attorney can advise you on whether legal action will be fruitful.

The preceding is presented for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. 

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