Losing a loved one is hard—and stressful. Often of the first worries that arises is tending to your loved one’s final arrangements and figuring out the best way to pay for the funeral or cremation.

First, review your loved one’s important papers to determine whether he or she may have a prepaid funeral or cremation or some sort of burial life insurance policy or similar.

In the absence of any prepaid arrangements or burial life insurance, you’ll need to determine an alternate way to pay for funeral and final expenses. Generally, you will not yet have access to the Decedent’s estate to pay the funeral home. The most common option is for one or more family members to advance the costs of the final arrangements to be reimbursed by the Estate later. Other options for paying final arrangement-related expenses include:

  • A funeral loan which is later paid off from the Estate;
  • Assigning a life insurance policy (see caution below); or
  • Occasionally, a funeral home will agree to delay receipt of payment until the Decedent’s accounts can be accessed, if accompanied by an attorney letter and proof that the Decedent’s estate has sufficient assets to pay for the final arrangements.

You should exercise caution if you are considering assigning a life insurance policy to pay for final arrangements. Generally, with such an arrangement, the life insurance company will disburse all the funds to the funeral home. Then, once all the final arrangements have been paid for, the funeral home will refund the remaining funds to the Decedent’s Probate Estate. But there’s a problem with this—normally, when the life insurance hasn’t been assigned, the proceeds pass outside of the Probate Estate and go directly to the Beneficiaries named on the policy. As such, the proceeds from a life insurance policy normally are not subject to the creditors of the Estate. If the funeral home refunds the remaining life insurance proceeds after payment of final arrangements to the Decedent’s estate, then those funds now become subject to the creditors of the Estate.


Tending to your loved one’s final arrangements and affairs can be overwhelming. The days and weeks after a loss are often fraught with grief, questions, and unfortunately, family complications. It’s a terrible time to try to think through a legal process clearly. It’s often a challenge just to know where to start. Maybe you’re not even sure what questions to ask and whom to ask. How do you know you’re getting good advice and doing it right? You could probably use some help. Our Understanding Estate Administration guide can help. This guide will give you an overview of the probate and estate administration process in plain English. Request your free copy here.


Jennifer Mercer
Paralegal, Probate and Estate Administration Team Lead