Who Is Responsible for Funeral Expenses?

by Roger Thorne J.D. ; Updated July 27, 2017

In general, funeral costs are covered by the decedent's estate. However, family members or loved ones may pay upfront for services and have those expenses repaid by the decedent's estate. If you have questions about who will pay for a funeral or want to ensure your family doesn't have to go to any expense, speak to a funeral director in your area or consult an attorney to help you with an estate and funeral plan.

Funeral Arrangements

Typically, family members, friends or others close to the decedent make funeral arrangements after the death. The funeral director or funeral services provider enters into a contract with the family members for the cost of the funeral after the parties meet and agree to the terms. Once this happens, the party entering into the funeral contract is responsible for paying and typically has to do so within 30 days after the funeral, according to Mystatewill.com.

Reimbursing Expenses

When a person dies, the individual's property goes to new owners through a process known as probate. In the probate process, the probate court appoints a person to oversee the property transfer process. This person, typically called an executor or estate administrator, is responsible for using estate funds to pay any debts the decedent had. When a family member pays for a funeral, it's typically up to the family member to file a claim with the administrator to be reimbursed for the expenses.

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Family Obligations

While the legal responsibility of paying for the funeral falls upon the person who entered into the funeral services contract, it isn't uncommon for this person to ask other family members to share in the costs, especially if the decedent's estate is insolvent and unable to reimburse the funeral expenses. When this happens, those family members who did not enter into the funeral services contract are not legally bound to pay anything at all. Unless the family members entered into a previous contract about sharing expenses, the sole responsibility to pay lies with the person who signed the funeral services agreement.

Prearranged Services

In some situations, the decedent prepays or prearranges funeral services. In these instances, there may be no need for anyone to pay funeral expenses. If you arrange for prepaid funeral services, you should ensure that you provide your attorney or family with details of the agreement so they are not left unaware in the event you die.

About the Author

Roger Thorne is an attorney who began freelance writing in 2003. He has written for publications ranging from "MotorHome" magazine to "Cruising World." Thorne specializes in writing for law firms, Web sites, and professionals. He has a Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas.

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