How Does an Estate Pay Funeral Bills?

If you’ve been named the executor of the estate of a friend, family member, or colleague, one of the tasks at hand very well may be addressing the costs associated with the funeral and final disposition of the deceased individual. In this day and age, there are many ways in which funeral and related costs are paid. One of the avenues through which funeral and final disposition expenses are paid is through the estate of the deceased person. We provide you with some essential information and guidance in regard to the manner in which an estate takes care of these expenses.

Commence the Probate Process

The first step in getting funeral bills paid by the estate of a deceased person is to commence the probate process. There are two primary ways in which the probate process starts. First, a last will and testament is presented to the local probate court. The will designates an executor, the individual charged with tending to the affairs of an estate, including paying for costs associated with a funeral and the final disposition of the deceased individual.

Second, if there is no will, a family member or other appropriate person can file a petition with the local probate court to start the probate process. The probate court will appoint what is known as an administrator for the estate. Like an executor, an administrator appointed by the probate court is the individual responsible for overseeing the affairs of the estate, including paying for the funeral and final disposition of the individual who has died.

Coordinate Payment Strategies With the Funeral Home

An important step you need to take is to reach out to the funeral home and director taking care of arrangements for the deceased friend, family member, or colleague. Funeral homes are very used to coordinating the financial aspects of funerals and final dispositions around everything from insurance claims to probate processes.

The key is opening up dialogue on the matter of payment from day one. Indeed, if you’ve questions about the estate paying the funeral bills as the executor or a family member, a funeral director is likely to be a great resource for you.

Find Out If Other Payment Alternatives Exist

If you are the executor of an estate, part of what are known as your fiduciary duties is to minimize costs incurred by an estate. As a consequence, in advance of an estate expending money on funeral and final disposition expenses, you need to undertake a course of due diligence and ascertain whether or not other types of payment arrangements have been made or are available.

Some people undertake funeral and burial (or cremation) preplanning. If that is the case, they may have paid some or all of the costs associated with these services. Preplanning and prepayment may have been undertaken for everything from preparation of the deceased person to casket purchase to cemetery plot to burial to headstone. In this and age, people are becoming savvier when it comes to funeral and disposition preplanning. Therefore, multiple providers may have been involved in a comprehensive preplanning process.

In the alternative, some individuals take out a life insurance policy for the express purpose of paying expenses associated with a funeral and final disposition. Funeral homes are highly adept at dealing with life insurance used to satisfy these expenses.

Prepare an Inventory of the Estate

In advance of paying the legitimate expenses of an estate, including those associated with a funeral and final disposition, an inventory of the estate needs to be prepared. This includes a general and complete itemization of the assets of the estate, including cash and investment accounts.

Generally speaking, an estate inventory is not a particularly challenging task. If an estate is more complicated, a preliminary inventory can suffice to move forward to pay basic expenses like those associated with a funeral and final disposition.

Obtain Bills Associated With the Funeral and Final Disposition

As mentioned previously, there may be multiple entities involved in providing overall services and products associated with a funeral and final disposition. One of the tasks of an executor is to gather these invoices and bills. Once in hand, an executor has the documentation necessary to undertake the payment of these expenses.

There are different types of probate processes in every U.S. state, including California. The type of process being utilized may have some impact on the payment of funeral and associated expenses. With that said, a considerable majority of estates qualify for a simplified probate process in California. This permits an executor the ability to tend to the affairs of an estate with very little interaction with the probate court. Thus, once preliminary estate matters are taken care in probate court, no additional authorization or approval from the probate court will be necessary to pay funeral and final disposition expenses.