Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Child Support After Parent's Death

A recent Boston Globe article, Clash over estate spurs mother's challenge to law, highlights a legal battle in Rhode Island over whether a parent can disinherit minor children when the estate has sufficient funds to provide support for them, ending support, or whether, instead, child support should be treated like an outstanding obligation of the estate like other debts. In Massachusetts, the issue was resolved in L.W.K. v. E.R.C., 432 Mass. 438 (2000). In LWK, the court held that a child support obligation survives death. In part, the majority held:

  1. "A legally enforceable obligation to pay child support, like other financial obligations of the testator, takes precedence over testamentary dispositions and must be satisfied prior to any distribution of assets under the will."
  2. "A parent charged with an obligation to support his child cannot nullify that legal obligation by disinheriting his child pursuant to G. L. c. 191, Sect. 20. Beyond satisfaction of his support obligation, however, a parent is free to exercise his testamentary discretion with respect to a minor child, as all others, and may disinherit her."
  3. "A judge in the Probate and Family Court does not have the authority to enter an order after the death of the obligor to secure postminority educational support for a child who does not presently qualify for such support pursuant to G. L. c. 209C, Sect. 9."