If my father signed for my mother’s funeral but he died shortly after and did not pay the balance, am I liable?

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If my father signed for my mother’s funeral but he died shortly after and did not pay the balance, am I liable?

The funeral home sued me and the judge in the civil court said I was liable because I helped my dad during the process. However, I signed no agreements. Is this legal?

Asked on October 11, 2012 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania

Answers:

Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

This is not a question that can be answered over the internet.  To answer it, the lawyer must see all the paperwork and the judgment.

In general, there are three basic theories under which you might be liable for the funeral bill.  The first one is "actual contract" in which you signed a contract to pay for the funeral.  You indicated that you did not sign one, so you would not be liabile under this theory.

The next theory is "implied contract" or "unjust enrichment" in which you accepted the benefit of a service or product and in fairness should pay for it.  Depending on the circumstances, you could be liable under this theory.

The next theory is that you received or have access to your mother's or your father's assets, whether there is a formal estate or not.  Under this theory, you should pay for the funeral out of those assets.

I hope this discussion helps you.  If your mother or father left assets that could pay for the funeral, I suggest you do that.  If they did not, then you should see a lawyer immediately.  If the judge entered a judgment against you, you have only a short time to dispute it.


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