Who pays for a memorial service?


Happy new year! I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday season. After fielding a number of questions on the topic over the last month, we’re going to talk estate administration for a few posts.

When a loved one passes away, what happens?

Let’s start at the beginning. After a person passes away, surviving family and friends generally hold a funeral or memorial service of some kind. Due to their very nature, these events are usually held before the deceased person’s will can be found or filed to begin probate proceedings. With the average cost of running anywhere from $7,000 to $11,000 (source), the question arises: How do we pay for this?

Virginia Code Section 64.2-511 allows the person who will become the executor to “provide for the burial of

the testator, pay reasonable funeral expenses, and preserve the estate from waste” prior to probating the will. “Reasonable” funeral expenses have been determined to be $4,000. The will-be executor may spend more than that amount, but could be personally liable for anything over $4,000 if the deceased person’s estate is not enough to cover all his or her debts and other expenses in addition to his or her funeral costs. While this shouldn’t scare anyone away from giving a loved one the burial he or she deserves, this is something to be aware of as selections are made.

The other part of that Code section – “preserve the estate from waste” – includes such logistics as locking up the deceased person’s home; securing jewelry, silverware, coins, and other valuable items; ensuring the same are covered by an adequate insurance policy; stopping deliveries; holding the deceased person’s mail; canceling magazine and other subscription; removing perishable items from the home; and making sure animals are taken care of.

The Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information website has a helpful guide for calculating the costs of a funeral or memorial service for a loved one.

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