Paying for the funeral

So you have just lost a loved one and now you have to figure out how to pay the mortuary, the cemetery, the church, the musician, the newspaper for the obituary, and maybe even a nice reception after the funeral… but who pays for all that?  I have been faced with this issue personally the last week as my wife’s grandma passed away.  Though she had pre-paid for her cemetery plot it turns out that was only half the battle… actually, not even half. Luckily various family members were able to pay for different things so it’s all working out just fine. However, what if you can’t afford it? What can you do?

Let’s say the person that died had money in the bank but you can’t access it. Maybe there is $30,000 sitting there. You have seen the bank statement and know it’s there. However, the bank won’t give it to you because they aren’t allowed to.  In some cases I can help structure a deal with some of the people owed money but not always. In the cases where we can’t convince them to be paid once probate is started what can you do?  One possibility is petitioning the Court, in an “ex parte” fashion, to release funds from the bank account to pay the funeral costs.  Since funerals are priority costs to be paid the Court should be friendly to this.

Filing ex parte means going in to Court on an emergency or “rush” basis to get something done.  Most Courts have procedures of what time of day you can show up to get an ex parte matter heard. In some counties you call the day before to get on the calendar.  There are likely notice requirements; that is, you telephoning all the players that you are going to Court the next morning to ask for money.  It’s a complicated petition and procedure and thus it should be handled by an experienced probate attorney.

Absent that, the more common approach is that everybody chips in what they can and then are paid back once probate is going.  Letters are usually issued by the Court at the first Court date and most Court dates are given about 6 weeks after the probate petition is filed. So this is one more good reason to get your probate started!  Once letters issue the Personal Representative can access the bank account and pay back the funeral funds. This includes all reasonably related things like obituaries, flowers, etc….

Contact Me with questions.  -John

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