How can I convince my stepchildren to help pay for their father's funeral?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband of six years died of a heart attack. At the time of honoring his wishes for a military burial, his two children were involved. His son offered to pay for the casket burial of $2,100 and his daughter stated that she had limited funds. So it was suggested that we set up a memorial fund, which we did. I am left with a remaining balance I had to pay for the burial of $2,200. After numerous phone calls and emails and my family calling his son and daughter, they now claim they are not going to pay anything and are ignoring the fact that I am going to lose my home and am under outpatient care.

I took care of their father, treated their family as my own, my husband, their father arrived in my marriage penniless and left me penniless. I am 49 years old and there is no income or benefit I will recieve from my husband's death except for the $300 the VA will pay, which I applied to the balance. Is there anything I can do to get them to pay me back?

Expert Answers

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.

It sounds as if you have done all that’s humanly possible to coax money from your husband’s kids, but your pleas have fallen on deaf ears and your emails have gone to blind eyes. You may want to make one more pitch to them—particularly emphasizing what their father would have wanted or expected from them rather than how their refusal to pay affects you. Would it help to meet in person to discuss the issue?

The sad truth is that you may need to face the reality that the children will continue to refuse to chip in for the expenses. If you have hope that there are underlying issues for their refusal, you may try reaching a solution through a family dispute resolution service. Most communities have community boards or mediation services that are free or charge only a nominal fee. The potential hump is that they would have to agree to resolve the problem—and they may not be seeing this problem as their own.

While it may feel difficult, make sure you have exhausted all possible local and states resources. For example, in addition to the $300 for burial and funeral expenses, the veterans administration may also pay $300 toward the expense of the plot. And some local veterans groups may also help defray burial expenses where there is a clear financial need. The national VA office should be able to put you in touch with local groups.

Also, many counties have programs to help pay the final expenses of those considered indigent. Check with your local department of health and human services to see whether you may qualify.

Community Answers

Marciamspt answered...

Great advice Barbara...

and I would say that when it's all said and done, to visit and get plugged into his financial peace university so that you will have the resources to pull yourself back financially from this blow. Godpseed to you. My heart goes out to you and millions more in the same boat.

Marcia Oliver, MSPT, CPT

A fellow caregiver answered...

Working with Hospice, I have seen this situation too many times to count.I attended two family mediations for the purpose of settling final arrangements between family members and neither went well.The mediator explained it to me this way," After death, a stepchild feels there is no longer any obligation to the surviving spouse of their parent. Well meaning statements are made at the time of burial and promises are made to help with costs, but within a week, things change." She also stated that this situation was the least productive of all mediated issues she deals with. Sometimes the family comes to an agreement, but as soon as the doors are closed the refusal to help is stronger due to the forced mediation. The situation remains the same with an extra dose of hurt feelings and sometimes stronger and more damaging emotions that will not help anything.Usually it ends any relationship there might be. I know you are in a terrible situation and wish you the best. However, expecting his children to help with burial expenses, will probably be a major source of stress added to the lose of your husband, you are already experiencing. Good luck and I hope you can find resources to help you.