If my grandmother died and had no life insurance to cover the cost of herfuneral, can her belongings be sold to cover this cost?

UPDATED: Jan 1, 2011

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If my grandmother died and had no life insurance to cover the cost of herfuneral, can her belongings be sold to cover this cost?

My paternal grandmother passed away 2 days ago. She had just turned 85 years old. She had no POA nor did she have life insurance/savings. My father has 2 sisters who lived off of my grandmother all of their lives. 1 of them is still living in the apartment where my grandmother lived and thinks that all of my grandmother’s belongings are hers. My dad had to pay $1,000 towards the funeral cost; the total was over $4,000. Can we sell her household items to help pay for the remaining balance at the funeral home? What legal actions do we need to take to cover our butts?

Asked on January 1, 2011 under Estate Planning, South Carolina


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  What someone needs to do is to be appointed as the Personal Representative of the Estate of your Grandmother.  The Personal Representative will have the Power to Marshall (gather) the assets of the estate in whatever form and to sell what is needed to pay off the debts of the estate - the funeral bill being the first on the list with priority for payment - before he or she can distribute what is left to the beneficiaries of the estate.  You are not going to have an easy time with all of this given that your Aunt still lives in the apartment but it has to be done.  Check out the ability to do all this as a Small Estate since your Grandmother did not leave much in the way of assets from what you have written.  Good luck.

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