Solving the Probate Puzzle Part Two - Who Pays the Decedent's Funeral Costs?
If the decedent didn't prepay funeral and burial costs, does the executor have to pay them before probate begins? No. until the court approves your application for appointment as executor, you have no legal authority to access the decedent's assets to pay bills from the estate's funds. Moreover, unless you are also a surviving spouse, as executor, you do not have to use your own personal funds to pay bills. (If you are the surviving spouse, you may have an independent legal duty under your state's law to pay certain necessary expenses owed by the decedent.)
The interim period between the death and the opening of the estate can be difficult to navigate. If you do choose to use your own money to pay bills, you may be entitled to reimbursement when the estate opens. Many times, family members advance funeral and burial costs until probate begins and an executor has been confirmed by the probate court.
If you have paid funeral costs, keep receipts showing what you paid. The good news is these expenses can frequently be reimbursed quickly because funeral expenses often have priority and can be paid from the estate before other estate expenses. Because state rules vary, always check with an attorney licensed in your state before taking action.
For more great information about probate and protecting your loved ones with peace of mind estate planning, take a look at our valuable book and articles. Our materials are full of tips and advice. All materials are written by us and provide detailed North and South Carolina specific information designed to help anyone with estate planning questions. You can download your free copy of our book here.
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