How to Secure Spousal Support Payments After Your Ex Dies

In some divorces, a party is entitled to receive spousal support payments indefinitely. Courts typically award lifetime spousal support where the parties decided to divorce after a long marriage and have reached a fairly advanced age. In such cases, one spouse might have never worked a day in their life. Therefore, the likelihood of securing gainful employment after a divorce is slim-to-none. As a result, an award for lifetime spousal support would be appropriate to allow a party to maintain a minimum standard of living established during their long-term marriage.

California Family Code § 4360

Courts have the authority to prevent a situation where the untimely death of a spouse paying spousal support would leave the other spouse without a means of living. Under California Family Code § 4360, “the court, in determining the needs of a supported spouse, may include an amount sufficient to purchase an annuity for the supported spouse or to maintain life insurance for the benefit of the supported spouse on the life of the spouse required to make the payment of support…”

Section 4360 does not limit the means of securing posthumous financial support to the use of annuities or life insurance. The court can also order the supporting spouse “to establish a trust for the support of the supported spouse, so that the supported spouse will not be left without means of support in the event that the spousal support is terminated by the death of the party required to make the payment of support.”

A spouse who relies on spousal support payments as a means of living will have their well-being jeopardized if, for example, their ex passes away less than five years after their divorce. That is because spousal support obligations cannot extend beyond the life of the party making such payments. As a result, Section 4360 was established to allow courts to factor in premium payments for life insurance or an annuity when calculating the amount of spousal support owed. Courts have clarified that amounts awarded as spousal support under Section 4360 do not disrupt the rule that spousal support obligations terminate upon the death of the party making payments.

Alternatively, the supporting spouse can be ordered to form a trust that is designed to replace their spousal support payments after they die, naming their former spouse as a beneficiary. An order under 4360 is typically justified in situations where the supporting spouse’s health appears to be failing. For example, if the spouse who is obligated to pay support has a terminal illness, the court can increase the amount of their payments so the supported spouse can purchase an annuity or pay premiums for a life insurance policy on the life of the supporting spouse.

Legal Representation You Can Trust

At Moshtael Family Law, our legal team will work tirelessly to ensure your legal rights and interests or adequately protected. Depending on the circumstances of your case, we can utilize tools such as annuities, life insurance, or trusts, to ensure that your future well-being is not jeopardized by conditions that are out of your control – such as the untimely death of your ex-spouse. Backed by over 175 years of collective legal experience and a comprehensive understanding of California family law, you can rest assured that you and your family has a professional advocate to champion your best interests.

To schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced attorney about your case, contact Moshtael Family Law online or call us at (714) 909-2561 today.