I paid for my brother’s funeral. When will I be reimbursed?


Q. My brother suddenly passed away this past June. He was divorced and has a 24-year-old daughter. My brother did not have a will. My niece took possession of his home and car the day of his funeral by changing the locks so we no longer had access. My brother and I paid for the funeral with my niece signing a promissory note to reimburse us when she receives his life insurance and pension benefit from his state job. How long will we have to wait to be reimbursed, are we entitled to any portion of his home if she sells and should my brother and I hire a lawyer?
— Brother

A. Money can get messy after a family member dies.

Because your brother died intestate — without a will — and had a child as his closest relative, his property passes to his child at his death subject to claims of creditors.

You and your brother are creditors of your deceased brother’s estate, having paid his funeral expenses, said Catherine Romania, an estate planning attorney with Witman Stadtmauer in Florham Park.

You would be entitled to priority over other creditors for the reimbursement from probate assets for payment of funeral expenses even if your niece did not sign a promissory note, she said

“Depending on the terms of the promissory note and whether your niece signed it individually or as administrator of your deceased brother’s estate, you may be further protected as you may be entitled to collect from your niece’s individual assets,” she said. “You should file a notice of your claim with the surrogate because with notice, until your claim is paid, your niece will not be released from her bond, if any, which she obtained upon her being named administrator of her father’s estate.”

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This story was originally published on Nov. 19, 2021. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.