Dealing with Death and Divorce


The death of a spouse during or shortly after your divorce can present you with a number of legal questions.

If your spouse dies before your divorce is finalized, you are still considered legally married. If your spouse has no will, assets are divided according to state intestacy statutes, which means that you and any children your spouse has would share in the estate.

It does not matter if your spouse has been seeing someone else, even if they were planning to get married after your divorce was finalized. As far as the law is concerned, you are still the legal spouse and entitled to any inheritance from the estate.

A fiance is entitled to nothing, unless there is a will that specifically mentions him or her. If there is a will mentioning the fiance, the legal spouse may still have a right of election against it if he or she is not included.

If your spouse dies while you are legally separated, the same rules apply. Unless your spouse has a will specifying otherwise, you and any children that he or she has would share in the estate.

If you've already divorced and your ex is behind on child support payments, the remaining balance could possibly be paid from his or her estate. However, this is an issue you would need to discuss with a qualified attorney.

Further child support obligations end with the death of a parent. So if your ex was supposed to pay for your child's college education expenses as part of the divorce, this agreement is voided by his or her death. However, the child would be entitled to a portion of the estate as a legal heir.

Alimony payments stop with the death of the paying ex-spouse unless the divorce decree required him or her to purchase a life insurance policy to provide for future spousal support.

How Can We Help?

Please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at if you have questions about how the death of a spouse will affect your divorce settlement. Our Pasadena family law firm is staffed with experienced attorneys who can answer your questions regarding issues such as child support, spousal support, and the division of martial assets.