This question frequently comes up among family members after a loved one passes away. If you’re lucky, your loved one made plans for final arrangements prior to death and either prepaid the expenses or set aside sufficient funds for that purpose. On the other end of the spectrum, in a worst-case scenario, your loved one left neither a plan nor the money to cover the costs. Whose job is it, then, to make final arrangements and pay the bill?
In our article posted on August 25, 2014, we explained who has the right under Texas law to make final arrangements, including decisions about cremation or burial. Anyone of legal age and sound mind can leave funeral instructions in a will or appoint an agent to make those decisions. If the deceased didn’t leave instructions or appoint an agent, the next of kin may take on the task in the order set out by law.
Planning the funeral and paying for it are two separate issues
The person planning the funeral is not necessarily responsible for paying the bill. The estate of the deceased is primarily responsible for the costs of final arrangements, including:
- Preparing and transporting the body
- Burial or cremation
- Memorial or funeral services
- Traditional meal for family and friends
- Travel and meals for the person making final arrangements
If the estate has enough money, the expenses can be paid from estate funds. If estate funds are not immediately accessible, another person may pay for the arrangements and be reimbursed by the estate at a later date.
What if the estate doesn’t have any money?
Funeral expenses should always be balanced between the deceased person’s preferences, if known, and how much the estate can afford. If the estate cannot afford to pay for some or all of the final arrangements, the family or friends must decide whether and how much of their own money to contribute to the expenses.
Be aware that the funeral director and other service providers will most likely need assurance of payment prior to providing services. These service providers may want the person who makes the arrangements to agree to personal liability if the estate can’t pay.
What if the estate has only a little money?
If the estate has assets, funeral expenses and costs of the last sickness are to be paid before any other claims. Of course, there is a limit. The expenses must be reasonable, approved by a court and may not exceed $15,000.00. If the costs are greater than $15,000.00, the excess debt is categorized as other unsecured debt, which is the last class of claims to be paid by the estate. If the estate has limited assets, the unsecured claims may receive nothing or only a portion of the debt owed.
The bottom line is if you are going to take on the task of making final arrangements, find out how much the estate can afford before you obligate yourself to pay the bill. Keep in mind there may be medical expenses related to the final illness, so even if the estate has assets to meet the $15,000.00 cap, all of it may not be available to pay funeral expenses.
Call for more information about estate planning and probate
Peterson Law Group provides comprehensive estate planning and probate litigation representation throughout the Bryan-College Station, Texas area and beyond. Call Peterson Law Group at 979-703-7014 to make an appointment, or fill out our online contact form to arrange a meeting.