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Transferability of alimony to heirs

The question of whether alimony , as  established  in article 301 of the civil code prior to the law of July 11, 1975, is transferable to the heirs is addressed in a recent judgment of the first civil chamber. This was a judgment on appeal concluding that the maintenance decision, which also awarded damages to the wife for the fault of the husband, indicated that the maintenance was purely alimony and personal, making it non-transferable in the event of death.

Alimony as a transferable debt

Contrary to the opinion of the lower court, the Supreme Court has a different opinion. Alimony, in addition to its role of maintenance, has a compensatory aspect, which allows it to be passed on to the heirs of the deceased debtor.

Universal heirs or heirs by universal title  automatically take  the place of the deceased in the existing obligation. While maintenance debts are generally non-transferable and extinguish on the death of the debtor, debts of an indemnity nature, such as alimony, are part of the liabilities of the estate, which are then passed on to the heirs.

Concretely, when a person, following a divorce , owed unpaid alimony to his ex-spouse at the time of his death, this debt is transmitted mortis causa (on death) to the heirs entitled to the liabilities of the succession.

This judgment clarifies the transferability of maintenance debts to heirs and establishes that the compensatory nature of maintenance allows its inclusion as part of the deceased’s estate. It confirms that the alimony, beyond its purpose of continuous support, has a legal basis justifying its transfer to the heirs on the death of the debtor.