HBO recently concluded its mini-series Big Little Lies, and if your office, circle of friends, or family is anything like mine, the buzz created by the final episode was all you could talk about since it aired. Of course, the talk at our office water fountain circle comes with lots of legalese!
I remember my first day of class in my first year of law school, when Professor Paige told all of us we would never think like “normal” people again–and he was right. I’ve viewed the last thirteen years of my life through a different set of lenses. I now look at every situation considering the legal ramifications. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows us that we did this with the latest episode, called “You Get What You Need.”
SPOILER ALERT: If you have not seen the show, this blog article will spoil some of the plot, so if you do not want that to happen, please stop reading and come back after you view this magnificent mini-series.
Also: one caveat: Although the show takes place in California, I am a Texas attorney and I am only looking at Texas law. I do not make any representation on how California law would handle these situations.
Would Jane get child support now that she has found and identified the father of Ziggy?
Typically, when a father that has a child support obligation dies before that obligation is fulfilled, then the deceased father’s estate would be liable for the outstanding child support due. Child support is also a priority claim, meaning that it would be paid before the assets of the estate are distributed and before unsecured creditors are paid. This is why there is often a clause written into the child support obligation order, requiring the obligor to keep a life insurance policy in place to cover any outstanding child support at the time of death.
The Big Little Lies scenario is a little different though, since Perry had not been identified as Ziggy’s father prior to his death and no existing child support order was in place. (But note that Jane does have some avenues to still try and get some type of support.)
Jane would have to open a suit to establish paternity, brought against Perry’s estate. In other words, the executor named in his will (or the administrator, if there was no will) would be the person on the other side of the lawsuit. A DNA test would be conducted and if paternity is established, then Jane would have to bring a request for support and ask that it be taxed against the estate.
Of course, many fine details could affect this scenario/situation, so I would advise anyone seeking post-death support from a mother or father of their child to seek legal advice tailored to their exact set of facts.
Would Ziggy collect anything from Perry’s estate?
That depends on whether or not Perry had a will and what the will said. If Perry had a will and it specifically named to whom and how his assets were to be distributed, then such distribution would be made. So, if only his present children were listed, then Ziggy would likely not inherit. However, a practice we often use in will drafting for a young couple includes the phrase, “or any child born to me hereafter.” What this usually means is that if a person leaves a portion of their estate to his or her children, this can also include children born after the will is drafted. In the Big Little Lies scenario, Ziggy could then inherit the same as the two sons that Perry had with Celeste.
I hope that my discussion above intrigued you as much as it did all of us in our office, and I look forward to future discussions about television and the law– and if you have thoughts on Big Little Lies, share them in the comments!