Dead Keep Paying!

“Dead keep paying”, sounds like your typical tacky tabloid come-on story line, like “Zombie Wins Custody”. Only this time, it’s TRUE!! (not the Zombie story, although I’m certain some spouses would dispute that).

Or to put it more precisely it will be if recent proposed amendments to family law in British Columbia actually make it to law. Let me explain.

Currently, if you are paying, or receiving spousal support, to or from a former spouse, the death of the paying spouse will typically result in the termination of spousal support. In a way it makes sense, when payor dies, payor’s obligation dies along with payor.

However, to be clear there can be exceptions. A judge could order that such spousal support obligations will bind the estate of the paying spouse, although I’m not sure it’s settled law in BC that a judge can make such an order. Also the spouses’ themselves can agree in writing that such payments will survive death. In my experience such exceptions are extremely rare.

But a legal resurrection is about to take place.

Under proposed amendments, unless the spouses agree otherwise in an agreement or court order, such spousal payments will continue and be binding upon the estate of the paying spouse. This is good news if you happen to be the receiving spouse, and not so good news if you happen to be the paying spouse. But then again if you happen to be the paying spouse you’ll be dead, so it won’t really be a big concern for you, just your executor.

So while death may bring with it a welcome relief from earthly burdens for many, unless you plan accordingly, making payments to your former spouse from beyond the grave won’t be one of them!


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