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Who is responsible for the funeral expenses?

Pampa, TX |

My mom and dad have been married for 67 years. Dad passed away six months ago. He was ninety eight. They both lived in a nursing facility and received excellent care. Mom still does.
I have always prided myself in being the one child who would be responsible for their well being. When they became so old that they no longer could care for themselves, my wife and I would take care of it, as inconvenient as it was for our own lives and family. I do not regret a thing. I got both my parents signed up for Medicaid as well as Medicare, plus Mom has Blue Cross from her annuity (a very small one) when she worked for the U.S. Postal Service many years ago.
I also have both ‘medical power of attorney’ and ‘durable power of attorney’ for obvious reasons. My attorney that drew up the papers, told me that power of attorney was safer for my family and me than “legal guardianship” so, I followed his advice.
Other than an old mobile home and the large corner piece of real estate it sits on, Mom and my late father accrued very few tangible assets. This is a good thing, really, because otherwise their estate or their children would have to pay for their medical expenses (?).
When Daddy died, I made the funeral arrangements. All of the expenses that the pre paid funeral plan didn’t cover was around $2,000. I paid that out of my pocket, hoping to split the expense with my only sister who lives in Florida, which she refused to do. That sort of put a financial crunch on us but I paid it anyway. Now, I have to think and plan for when Mom dies; the same thing will happen. When I go in to make the funeral arrangements, the Cemetery will want their money paid up front. You see, I messed up when I bought the funeral plans, by not including the excavation of the grave, the casket vault, and some other “minor” costs that go with a funeral.
Right now, and in the near future, I don’t see our financial situation improving a great deal. We can pay our own bills, but another $2,000 or so ‘cash-on-the-barrelhead’ would hurt us (and the cemetery doesn’t take payments).
My question is; in these circumstances am I responsible for these expenses, or is Mom’s estate? She doesn’t have enough cash in the bank to pay it. Or should I just tell the cemetery people that I can’t afford to pay it, and to charge it to their estate. Better yet, I could tell them to charge it to my sister and her husband. Your answer to my situation and question would be appreciated.

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Attorney answers 1


Funeral expenses are technically estate expenses. However, since it takes longer so set up an estate and than a family would want to wait to have the estate itself make the funeral arrangements, it is quite normal for a members to pay the all of the expenses and get reimbursed by the estate. Such expenses get deducted from the estate before its disbursement to beneficiaries according to the Will or laws of intestacy.

Suggestion: since you have the power of attorney, there may be an opportunity to use your mother's assets to prepay for the funeral. I recommend consulting with a local trusts and estates / probate attorney to make certain you do not run afoul of Medicaid rules. You might also take that opportunity to see if there might be any tax issues upon your mother's death. It's also good to take a look at all of her assets and her Will at such a consultation. Such an initial consultation might even be free for an attorney looking to build a relationship -- i.e. someone you would use upon her death. Even if she has limited assets, it's worth investigating all of this with a local attorney.

Good luck.

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