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Idaho Estate Planning Who Pays for a Funeral and can They get Paid Back?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Let’s face it, funerals are a big deal. They are time-consuming, emotional and often distressing, difficult to attend, and usually very expensive. The purpose of this article is to focus on the expenses of a funeral, and to talk about who is required to pay for the funeral. This article also discusses whether someone can be paid back from the estate if they pay for the funeral out of their own pocket.

As an estate planning attorney, I’m involved with more funerals than most people usually are. Additionally, in assisting my clients through the probate process, I often work with them when it comes to the funeral expenses that occur. Because of this, I am familiar with how expensive funerals can be. I’m also familiar with the fact that often the estate left by the deceased person doesn’t have enough liquid cash or other assets to pay for a funeral. Because of this, family members are often required to step up and pay for the funeral themselves.

In many instances, these family members don’t care about being paid back. They are more concerned about making sure that they have taken care of their deceased family member and provided an opportunity for the surviving family members to grieve. However, because of the expense of a funeral, no one should feel guilty about being paid back from the estate. The key, is understanding that this doesn’t happen automatically,

To help each of our individual clients we provide a free Estate Planning Questionnaire to help individuals plan and prepare for their own death. We also assist family members after an individual has passed away by providing a free 30-minute consultation to discuss the probate process in Idaho and all the steps that need to be completed to properly care for the decedent’s estate. This includes paying all the debts and expenses that come up because of the decedent’s death and those that existed before.

The laws in Idaho provide a specific list of priorities that have to be followed whenever the estate does not have enough money to pay all of the debts and expenses of the decedent, including funeral expenses. These are found under a specific statute called classification of claims which is Idaho Code 15-3-805. This statutes states:

  1. If the applicable assets of the estate are insufficient to pay all claims in full, the personal representative shall make payment in the following order:
    1. Costs and expenses of administration;
    2. Reasonable funeral expenses;
    3. Debts and taxes with preference under federal law;
    4. Reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses of the last illness of the decedent, including compensation of persons attending him;
    5. Debts and taxes with preference under other laws of this state;
    6. All other claims.
  2. No preference shall be given in the payment of any claim over any other claim of the same class, and a claim due and payable shall not be entitled to a preference over claims not due.

As you can see, the language in this statute says that the expenses “shall” be made in the order listed. Below is an explanation of what some of these items are.

Administrative Expenses

Administrative expenses include the expense of administering the estate. This simply means that the person appointed as the personal representative has the ability to use the assets of the estate to pay for the probate above all other expenses. This makes sense because if this wasn’t the case, the person appointed as the personal representative would be required to pay for the probate out of their own pocket. If this were true, then no one would accept the appointment as a personal representative because it could make them personally liable for the debts and expenses associated with the probate itself.

In other words, in summary, the cost of the probate has the highest priority to be paid from the estate first. If a person fronts the costs of the probate, they are entitled to be paid back before any other money or property from the estate is distributed for any other purpose.

Funeral Expenses

The next priority on the list of payments is the funeral expenses. However, note that the statute says that the funeral expenses must be reasonable. In other words, you cannot have a super extravagant funeral, when the estate itself does not have enough assets to pay all the debts and claims from creditors that may exist.

However, getting to the focus of this article, if a person does front the cost of the funeral, they then are in the next highest level of priority to be paid back from the assets of the estate. Again, the reason for this is to encourage a proper handling of the body which results in either creation and/or a funeral. If this wasn’t listed as a priority, then it typically would not happen.

Other Debts and Expenses

The final levels of priorities are listed by items 3 through 6 in the statute. These include federal taxes, reasonable and necessary medical expenses, but only related to the final illness of the decedent, the other debts and taxes that are existing based on state law, and then all other claims from creditors.

Based on the statute, you can see that the probate expenses and funeral expenses enjoy a super priority among other claims that could exist against the estate. In other words, even with a small estate, these things will be paid from the estate assets. It’s only when and individual is truly destitute, and the estate has no assets, that a person paying for the probate or funeral expenses may not be paid back.

If you have questions or concerns about paying for the expenses of a funeral, we can help. We encourage you to contact us for a free 30-minute consultation where we can discuss your circumstances and answer your questions. We have assisted numerous clients through this process, and we are confident we can help you too!

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho estate planning problems.

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