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Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

— January 6, 2022

Losing a loved one suddenly is difficult to accept, especially if the family is financially dependent on the deceased.

Losing someone untimely could be devastating to the immediate family left behind. Especially if the person who died was still young and full of life, the loss could cause unfathomable grieving. However, beyond the pain, the family and surviving loved ones will also suffer financial loss since the person who died will no longer be there to provide for their needs. 

If you’re one of the immediate family of a person who may have died a wrongful death, you might want to consider asking for more information from the Best Wrongful Death Attorney In Sacramento or any other law firm in your area. Here’s some information about who is eligible to receive the money when the court delivers a verdict that grants compensation, once someone is proven to suffer a wrongful death.

  1. Who Receives Wrongful Death Settlement

The answer to the question of who receives the financial compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit depends on several factors. Unlike with other personal injury cases, wrongful death lawsuits are not filed to penalize the responsible party. Instead, these lawsuits are meant to provide financial settlement money for the surviving loved ones to atone for the unexpected financial loss of the family.  

If it’s a wrongful death claim, the general rule is that the financial compensation will be paid out to the immediate family of the deceased. Accordingly, the persons that are considered immediate under the law are the legal spouse, common-law spouse, domestic partner, and children of the decedent. This is sometimes extended to include grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and others who were dependent on the deceased for support. 

If there are several surviving loved ones, the settlement award could be divided by the court among the numerous heirs who were dependent on the deceased for financial support while the deceased was still alive.

On the other hand, a survival action can only be filed by an executor of the deceased’s estate, the settlement money awarded by the court will be given to the estate of the deceased. The money received by the estate would then be allocated by the estate administrator and will be used to pay off the debts incurred by the estate. If the estate doesn’t have any outstanding debts, the settlement money will be distributed according to the estate plan or the will of the deceased, if there’s any.

In the state of California, the financial compensation granted by the court will be paid out to the following persons in this order:

  • The surviving legal spouse or domestic partner
  • The surviving children
  • The surviving grandchildren
  • The person(s) next in line as heir(s)

If the person who died is still a minor, the financial compensation will be granted to the parents.

  1. Types of Compensation

While no amount of money can compensate the untimely death of a loved one, a financial compensation can help with the unexpected financial burden that awaits. Fortunately, this law was enacted to compensate for the loss that the immediate family and surviving loved ones will be facing as a result of the untimely demise of the person who died. Under the laws of the state of California, ‘just compensation’ will be granted to the immediate family.

The court can include the following in the financial compensation:

  • Expenses for funeral or burial
  • Financial support being provided by the deceased before the untimely death
  • Loss of companionship, comfort, affection, and moral support.
  • If the person who died was a legal spouse or domestic partner, loss of consortium
  • If the surviving loved one is a child of the person who died, loss of a parent’s care, training, guidance, and affection
  • Value of household services that the deceased would have provided
  1. Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim

In California, there are statutory provisions that governs the litigation of wrongful death actions. This is specifically stated in the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60. The only eligible parties to file a wrongful death action to seek just compensation are the following rightful heirs:

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  • Spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Children of the person who died
  • Stepchildren of the person who died, if any
  • A putative spouse of the person who died. A putative spouse is someone who believed in good faith that they were legally married with the person who died, but weren’t legally married
  • Any minor who was dependent on the deceased for at least 50% of financial support. The minor should have resided in the same household as the person who died for a duration of not less than 180 days before the death of the person. 


Losing a loved one suddenly is difficult to accept, especially if the family is financially dependent on the deceased. It’s fortunate that there are laws enacted to assist the surviving family in filing for just compensation to be able to move on with their lives after the loss of the loved. Wrongful death cases are complex and can get more overwhelming when multiple family members seek a portion of the financial compensation. This article will provide you an insight on how to go about every detail with regards to wrongful death claims.

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