Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in North Carolina

My sister taught an autistic child in her classroom and took in the child, Alan and his mother, Becky over one summer to put the child on a behavior program due to destructive behavior. They ended up living with her for over 30 years with my sister being the main financial contributor to the household. The son died many years back and in May the mother died. On the night she died, one of her brothers told us to plan the funeral and make all arrangements since we knew her much better than her family. We were aware she had a life insurance policy that a dear friend of hers had been paying the premiums on for many years so my sister signed the agreement at the funeral home and made the arrangements. We couldn't find a copy of the policy and later learned the deceased son was still listed as the beneficiary, so her next of kin, her mother would be the beneficiary. One of Becky's brothers, not the one we spoke with who told us to plan the funeral, lives with the mother and refuses to let her open an estate so the insurance company will pay. He states since my sister planned the funeral, she can pay for it. He told his mother if she paid for the funeral he would not live with her and she would go to a rest home. He is verbally abusive to her and she is in her 80's and not able to care for herself. The funeral home is billing my sister and charging 17% interest. She is a retired teacher who adopted an autistic child and certainly can not afford to pay this $9000.00 bill. Do we have any legal recourse? Could we take the brother to small claims court? Thanks for any advise you can give us.

Asked on 11/23/16, 7:05 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

I don't know why your sister made arrangements for the funeral. As between her and the funeral home, your sister is liable. She cannot sue the dead woman's brother directly. The estate for the dead person owes the money for the funeral technically. So let's back up. Person died - did she have a will? If not, then it sounds like the surviving brothers would be next of kin. But if they will not probate an estate then anyone else can do it or a public administrator can be appointed. When did the woman die? Have 6 months gone by? Once an estate is opened, the insurance company can pay t he money into the estate and your sister can submit a claim for reimbursement for he funeral expenses. tf the personal representative for the estate denies the claim, then and only then can your sister sue the estate. I suggest that your sister get a probate lawyer or get a consult with one. No good deed ever goes unpunished it seems.

Read more
Answered on 11/23/16, 9:09 pm

Related Questions & Answers

More Probate, Trusts, Wills & Estates questions and answers in North Carolina