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Child maintenance arrears - recovering arrears from the estate of someone who has died

This advice applies to England

Both parents are legally responsible for the financial support of the children.

If the parent who should pay maintenance dies owing maintenance, the Child Support Agency (CSA) or Child Maintenance Service (CMS) can arrange to get back the arrears from their estate.

This page tells you more about what you can do to recover arrears from the estate of someone who's died.

Recovering arrears from the estate

If the parent who should pay maintenance dies, the CSA or CMS can take steps to recover arrears of child maintenance from their estate.

This is a discretionary power. This means the CSA or CMS can decide whether or not to do this. They should not try to recover arrears in this way without the consent of the parent with day-to-day care of the children. They must also take into account the welfare of the children.

If there's a will

If the parent owing maintenance dies leaving a will, the CSA or CMS can contact the executors of the will, giving details of how much money is owed in arrears.

If there's no will

If the parent with maintenance arrears dies without leaving a will, this is called being intestate. The CSA or CMS could make a claim to the administrators of the estate.

How the CSA or CMS will apply to the executors or administrators of the estate

The CSA or CMS will give the executor or administrator details of the arrears. However the CSA or CMS first have to make sure that any reviews the parent who's died may have asked for have been looked at and that the amount being claimed for outstanding arrears is correct.

The CSA or CMS must not give the executor or administrator the address of the parent who should be getting maintenance, or any information that could lead to them being found or identified.

If you are the executor or administrator

If you’re the executor or administrator of the estate, you can ask the CSA or CMS for more financial information to help you decide whether or not to pay back the child maintenance arrears.

If you don’t agree that the arrears are due, you can appeal in the same way as the person who has died.

If you’re the executor or administrator of the estate, you should deal with child maintenance arrears in the same way as any other debts due from the estate. They don’t take priority over other debts.

If there's not enough money in the estate to pay off all the debts, you’ll need to take legal advice from a solicitor who specialises in wills and probate as winding up an insolvent estate can be complicated.

If the CSA or CMS can’t recover arrears from the estate

The CSA or CMS may write off the arrears if they can't:

  • track down the executor or administrator
  • recover arrears from the estate because there aren't enough assets to allow the money to be recovered.

Next steps

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