Can I make my stepmother reimburse us for the cost of my father’s funeral?

My dad just passed away. He was married and separated but not legally separated. His wife

collects social security and has a boyfriend. She refused to be responsible for funeral costs.

My 2 sisters and I split the cost. I just found out that she got an automatic extra payment for his

death from the office of social security. The funeral home mistakenly put divorced on his death certificate. She demands I change it. She said until she gets the corrected copy and her social security checks, she will not give it to me and my sisters. We need it for funeral expenses. Every little bit helps at this point. I opened a succession and am the executor. She also just got engaged 3 weeks after my dad passed. Is she just playing the system or doing anything legally wrong?

Asked on May 20, 2016 under Estate Planning, Louisiana


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Your stepmother was under no legal obligation to pay for the costs of your father's funeral. Spouse's are not legally required to pay for such expenses. This is true regardless of her keeping the extra money from Social Security or having a boyfriend and becoming engaged so shortly after your father's death.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) You can't force her to pay you unless she agreed to share the costs with you--if you and your sisters agreed to split the costs and pay for the funeral but your stepmother never did, you can't legally force your stepmother, who hadn't agreed to pay, to pay.
2) There is nothing illegal about her keeping the extra payment for your father's death.
3) There is nothing illegal about her getting engaged shortly after his death.
Based on what you write, your stepmother may be acting immorally or unfairly, but not illegally.

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