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In a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision issued Thursday, the high court concluded that a father’s death did not extinguish his duty to support his minor child and that assets from a trust must be used to meet those obligations. According to the SJC in the case of L.W.K. & another v. E.R.C., executrix & others (SJC-08216), the public policy was clearly articulated by the state legislature and required the father’s estate in this case to be charged with his court-imposed obligations to support his minor child. Beyond satisfaction of those obligations, the SJC ruled that the father’s execution of a will to disinherit the minor child was permissible. The SJC further determined that all the assets of the inter vivos trust which the father established, under which he was the sole beneficiary entitled to funds at his request, and which he solely retained the power to modify, alter or revoke, must be included in the estate and made available to satisfy his child support obligations. The issue involving whether the probate judge may posthumously “set aside a lump sum in trust as security for future educational support” was more difficult for the SJC to resolve. The probate judge concluded the Social Security benefits received by the child after her father’s death was not a “substitute” for his child support obligations, but a credit to him. The SJC noted the issues were inextricably connected because both issues required the court to consider whether the death of a parent warrants reconsideration and possible modification of the original child-support order. The SJC agreed with the probate judge’s conclusion. The high court, however, determined that the judge did not have authority to enter an order after the testator’s death establishing an educational trust fund to secure postminority educational support for the child, who did not currently qualify for such support pursuant to G.L. c. 209C, Section 9 because it was beyond what the legislature may have intended.

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