When an ex-spouse dies, the assets of the decedent estate may be highly
contested in Probate and Family Law courts. In particular, a dissolution
judgment may prove to be a headache for an executor or administrator of
the decedent’s estate who may potentially have to deal with two
proceedings, one in Probate and another in Family law courts.
One unique feature of family law is that recent revisions to the Family
Code now make dissolution judgments enforceable until paid in full. This
is noteworthy because other debts that a decedent owes at the time of
death may not be collectible. This is not so with dissolution judgments
entered against the decedent under Family Code § 291.
Dissolution judgments can include child and spousal support payments. The
decedent’s representative is tasked with figuring out whether judgments
against the decedent have been satisfied or whether the decedent is in
debt to any creditors in the judgment.
General defenses to the enforcement of a judgment include “laches.”
Laches relies on the principle that a person who sits on their rights
loses their ability to seek the courts assistance. An unreasonable delay
in enforcing a right potentially causes great harm to the opposing party.
However, under Family Code § 291 the estate must ensure the judgment
or order is paid in full even if the party seeking enforcement of the
judgment has sat on their rights for decades.