Can I legally use Dad's money for funeral expenses after his death?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I withdrew money from my father's checking account the day after he died to help pay for all the expenses that would occur before probate was started and funds were released for the estate. Will I get in trouble? I have been keeping track of what has been used.

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

What happened in your situation is perfectly common and understandable"”especially since some creditors, such as those providing funeral goods and services, are less than likely to accept delayed payment plans these days. And the fact that you are fretting over the possibility of getting into trouble almost assures that you won't.

You were very wise, though, to keep good track of the bills and expenses. If you are the executor of your father's will, good recordkeeping will go a long way to making the entire probate process easier. And if someone else has been named executor, you should turn over the records you have been keeping to that person.

What will happen when the probate process gets underway is that the person named executor will do an inventory of all the property your father owned at his death, then subtract debts including expenses of settling the estate, other debts such as loans that your father may have owed at his death, and funeral expenses"”which is where your good accounting will come in the handiest.

There is a chance that the beneficiaries' shares of the property may be reduced by this debts"”or even that an account or other property they have been left may be used to satisfy them. But you will not get in trouble for paying the legitimate expenses related to winding up your father's estate.