Can the Trustee of a Trust Write Checks for Funeral Expenses?

by Jonathan Lister ; Updated July 27, 2017

A trustee or executor of a last will and testament has broad powers to pay the debts of the decedent's estate and distribute remaining assets. The trustee may pay for the decedent's funeral expenses depending on the wishes of surviving family members. This may include any expenses incurred by the trustee over the course of managing the estate for the surviving family.

Duties of Trustee

The executor or trustee in charge of overseeing the financial affairs of the decedent's estate has a duty to pay all creditors of the estate by varying level of priority. This means paying all money owed to the federal government, including the Internal Revenue Service, first followed by secured creditors and unsecured creditors. The trustee's fiscal responsibilities may include overseeing the funeral process if the decedent's last will and testament contains specific instructions relating to funeral and burial arrangements.

Paying the Bills

Powers of a trustee or executor include paying bills for funeral expenses incurred by a decedent's estate. This means a trustee can write checks using the estate's bank accounts to satisfy funeral costs, including paying for a burial plot and any viewing time at a funeral home. The trustee must keep detailed records of all expenses paid by the estate to present to the court when legally closing the estate. This allows the court to see the trustee has handled the estate responsibly.

Trustee Expense Reimbursement

A decedent's estate may reimburse a trustee or executor for expenses incurred in the course of settling the estate's affairs and paying bills. A trustee must present all costs incurred to the probate court having jurisdiction over the estate to attain proper approval for the reimbursement. For example, a trustee incurring travel costs while making funeral arrangements for the decedent may submit receipts to the court to legally release the funds from the estate's accounts into the trustee's possession. Court approval is necessary to guard against embezzlement on the part of the trustee.

Family Funeral Arrangements

Alternatively, the trustee may not need to pay for funeral expenses if the decedent's family chooses to make the arrangements and pay the costs directly. The trustee can still pay for the expenses but only if the family in charge of the arrangements wishes the estate to handle the costs. For example, a decedent's spouse may wish to handle the funeral arrangements and can choose to pay the expenses using a joint account or a sole account of the decedent's controlled by the estate's executor.

About the Author

Jonathan Lister has been a writer and content marketer since 2003. His latest book publication, "Bullet, a Demos City Novel" is forthcoming from J Taylor Publishing in June 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing and poetics from Naropa University.