What if the funeral home is asking me to pay even if I'm not the beneficiary? 15 Answers as of July 02, 2013

My husband passed away. He never changed his beneficiary and that is my mother in law. The funeral home assumed I would be the beneficiary and had me sign the paperwork. My mother in law will not pay and because of the funeral home's assumption, I am the one in debt.

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Indianapolis Bankruptcy Law Office of Eric C. Lewis
Indianapolis Bankruptcy Law Office of Eric C. Lewis | Eric Lewis
If you signed the paperwork accepting liability, then you would be on the hook for the debt.
Answer Applies to: Indiana
Replied: 1/18/2012
Geoff Germane, Attorney at Law | Geoff Germane
The expenses of a decedent's (someone who is deceased) funeral are reimbursable from the decedent's estate. If your husband's entire estate was left to your mother-in-law, you will need to talk to whomever was nominated in your husband's will as his "personal representative" or "executor." This is the person with whom you would file a claim for reimbursement, or for payment of the expense. If your husband did not have a will, that changes things considerably. The surviving spouse has a right to a certain share of the estate, and also has high priority to be appointed as the personal representative of the decedent.
Answer Applies to: Utah
Replied: 1/18/2012
Goldsmith & Guymon
Goldsmith & Guymon | Dara Goldsmith
If you signed the contract you are responsible. You may have a remedy against your mother-in-law to the extent the life insurance was a community asset. You should address this issue with an attorney. We offer a one hour consultation with an attorney who will provide you with important information regarding your specific case and will able to advise you on the options that you should consider in determining your next steps for the small investment of $100. This is a significant discount from our billing rates.
Answer Applies to: Nevada
Replied: 1/17/2012
Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C.
Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C. | Brian Haggerty
I'm afraid that's more a debtor-creditor question than an estate question. My guess is that the paperwork you signed included an agreement to pay for the services.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 1/17/2012
Law Office of Matt Potempa, PLLC
Law Office of Matt Potempa, PLLC | Matt Potempa
You may be confusing the term "beneficiary" with "executor". If your husband had a will, the person he named executor will be in charge of accumulating his assets and paying his debts. His funeral expenses may be paid first out of his estate, assuming the estate is solvent. Whomever pays for funeral expenses may be reimbursed and should file a claim on his estate if necessary. The extent to which you are liable to the funeral home will depend on the terms of the contract you signed. You should consult an experienced probate attorney.
Answer Applies to: Tennessee
Replied: 1/17/2012
    THE HUBBARD LAW FIRM, P.C.
    THE HUBBARD LAW FIRM, P.C. | Donald B. Lawrence, Jr.
    Since you knew when you signed that you did not have the funds to pay, why did you sign? I am assuming the funeral home asked you to sign in response to your request that they provide services. If your mother-in-law requested the services, she should have signed and may be responsible to the funeral home based, not on contract, but on a claim for the value of the services she requested. Your question does not indicate whether the insurance was related to the services of the funeral home but I am assuming it is not. Right or wrong, the insurance proceeds going to your mother-in-law are protected under Michigan statute from the claims of creditors. I can only assume that you believed that you were the beneficiary of his insurance but that should have been verified before you signed. Did this information help answer your question(s)? Details and context often affect the validity and usefulness of an answer that is based on a general statement of the law. You may need to consult directly with an attorney and provide additional information in order to get the best answer.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 1/17/2012
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    Sadly, you must pay as you signed the contract. While I realize people don't think when a loved one dies, you could have and should have checked on the insurance before signing. This is not the funeral home's mistake. It is one that you made, and, I am sad to say, there is no way to fix it.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 1/16/2012
    Myles A. Schneider & Associates
    Myles A. Schneider & Associates | Myles Albert Schneider
    The Answer depends on what you signed and what the will states. These could also be two separate issues.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 7/2/2013
    THE BROOME LAW FIRM, LLC
    THE BROOME LAW FIRM, LLC | Barry D. Broome
    If you signed, you have agreed to pay. If the spouse of the deceased refuses to pay your bill for her husband's funeral she is not obligated legally to pay. It does tell you a great deal about the character of the spouse of the deceased.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 1/16/2012
    DEAN T. JENNINGS, P.C.
    DEAN T. JENNINGS, P.C. | Dean T Jennings
    If you signed the obligation, then you are responsible. If you have any evidence (written or oral testimony.
    Answer Applies to: Iowa
    Replied: 1/16/2012
    Gregory T. Taylor, ESQ
    Gregory T. Taylor, ESQ | Gregory Taylor
    In Kentucky, in this instance, if you pay for the funeral you would have a claim against your husband's estate as a preferred creditor for the amount which you paid for the funeral. So you have two choices, the first being to pay the funeral home and file the claim against the estate, and the second being to refuse to pay the debt and tell the funeral home they need to file a claim against his estate. Additionally, you may want to choose to elect against your husband's Will if he left you out. You have the right to a portion of the estate no matter what the Will says. This may or may not be a huge deal depending on the size of the probate estate.
    Answer Applies to: Kentucky
    Replied: 1/16/2012
    Whiteford, Taylor, & Preston | Edwin Fee
    If you signed the contract with the funeral home, then you are probably liable for payment. You might be able to file a claim against the estate for reimbursement of the funeral costs.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 1/16/2012
    Law Office of J. Brian Thomas
    Law Office of J. Brian Thomas | J. Brian Thomas
    I'm so very sorry for your loss. Life insurance beneficiaries are not the only ones that incur debts for funeral expenses. And, being a life insurance beneficiary does not obligate you to pay for the insured's funeral. If you entered into a contract with the funeral home based on poor information, there may not be much recourse for you. It's your debt, and you can file a claim against the Estate for reimbursement assuming that other assets are out there to pay the money back to you. The funeral home is not obligated to pursue the debt from your mother-in-law. It is very likely that your best option is to continue trying to communicate with your mother-in-law to see if reason and logic might move her to pick up a part of the tab.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 1/16/2012
    Pia Anderson Dorius Reynard & Moss | Jason Hunter
    Unfortunately, if you signed the agreements with the funeral home in your name, you likely entered into a contract (on behalf of yourself) with the funeral home. If you did not sign a contract in your own name, you shouldn't have any liability. Usually funeral homes won't proceed with arrangements until they know who will be paying their bill. That is likely why they had you sign the agreements. The funeral home's obligations to collect do not necessarily flow through to the beneficiaries of an estate. Note, however, that if your spouse died and did not include you as a beneficiary of his estate/insurance/etc., you may be able to file a claim (for an "elective share") and receive a portion of the estate.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 1/16/2012
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