My loved one died without a Will – who pays for the funeral?

When a loved one passes, members of their family often ask the question above in a bid to figure out how to give them the most befitting and dignified funeral. Final rites are important, not only for honoring those who have departed, but also for helping survivors find perspective in grief. Click To Tweet

One simple answer to the question is that funeral expenses may be paid for with estate assets. This happens when a personal representative has been appointed by a probate court to act on behalf of the estate. Before that, an interested person with the means may handle the cost of the funeral, while also keeping careful and diligent records of all expenses. Even after the appointment of the personal representative, funeral expenses that are not backed up by suitable documents such as receipts and invoices cannot be reimbursed by the estate. Therefore, complete and accurate record keeping is crucial.

Of course, there are individuals who leave behind small estates that may lack the funds to pay for funeral costs. Sometimes as well, estate funds might only be sufficient to cover a small and less ostentatious funeral. As such, it is advisable for those in charge of funeral arrangements to ascertain how much of the funeral costs the estate can bear by consulting a person privy to the scope of estate assets.

It is also important to check to see if the deceased received pension or death benefits through his or her employer, had a life insurance policy that covered death and funeral expenses, or subscribed to a prepaid funeral plan. Depending on the benefit available, you may have to contact your loved one’s employer or insurance provider. If available, such benefits are a great way to pay for funeral costs without dipping into estate funds.  It is important to note, however, that if a beneficiary of a life insurance policy or bank account uses such inherited funds to cover funeral costs, that individual is entitled to reimbursement from the estate for such costs.

Who ends up initially paying for funeral costs is ultimately an internal decision made in full consideration of any available death and funeral benefits, by loved ones left behind. In the event that the estate has to make reimbursements for funeral expenses, it is helpful to note that funeral debts are a priority obligation that will be paid before every other debt of the estate except administration expenses (including reimbursing individuals who advanced funeral costs from personal assets such as life insurance or banking assets). Hopefully, this knowledge will leave you in a stronger position to give your loved one the befitting funeral that they deserve.

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