Can I Be Forced to Pay for My Estranged Father’s Funeral?

Dear Penny,

Should I get a life insurance coverage policy for my separated dad? My dad remains in his mid-50s and doesn’t have the very best health. We are not really close. We text periodically, and I see him perhaps two times a year. 

He is not wed. However, he has actually coped with the very same female for 12 years. I’m uncertain how common-law marital relationships work, so I’m questioning if the funeral expenses will be up to me rather of her, because I am his only kid. 

If so, I’d like to be prepared with a life insurance coverage policy, as I understand he doesn’t have one. And if I do pursue this, how do I approach my separated dad about this?


Dear C.,

You won’t be required to spend for your dad’s funeral service if you don’t sign an agreement with a funeral house. But because you’re the only kid, you’re most likely your dad’s near relative, although he’s coped with his partner for 12 years. Very couple of states acknowledge common-law marital relationship. Even in those that do, seldom will a relationship fulfill the requirements, no matter the length of time the couple cohabited.

Suppose you declined to spend for your dad’s last expenditures. If his estate didn’t have the cash to cover the expenses and nobody else stepped up to pay, the county coroner or another regional company would most likely manage the burial or cremation. There wouldn’t be a funeral service.

So prior to I get to your concern about whether to purchase life insurance coverage on your dad, my concern for you is: What do you believe you owe him?

I don’t believe biology obliges you to spend for your father’s funeral service if he was never ever really included with your life or if he did something really outright. But because you do have a relationship, albeit a stretched one, I’ll presume that you feel some obligation.

If you decided to purchase a life insurance coverage policy on your dad, you’d require his permission. But if the objective is just to cover last expenditures, I’m uncertain that purchasing life insurance coverage is the ideal relocation.

A $10,000 policy for a 55-year-old male would cost in between $35 and $55 monthly, according to Lincoln Heritage Life Insurance Co.’s site. That’s fairly costly for a little survivor benefit. Many policies likewise have a two-year waiting duration. That indicates if your dad passed away in the very first 2 years, the business would reimburse the premiums without paying the survivor benefit.

Before you choose whether this makes good sense economically, you require to ask your dad about what, if any, estate preparation he’s done. This isn’t almost who will spend for his funeral one day. As his near relative, you might require to make medical or monetary choices for him if he ends up being incapacitated unless he’s designated another person to act upon his behalf.

There’s no simple method to broach this topic, specifically because you’re not close. Acknowledging the reality that you’re about to go over something tough is frequently a great way to start a hard discussion. Start by stating something like, “Dad, this is something that I really hate to think about, as I’m sure you do. But it’s important to me that I know what you want if you were to get sick or die.”

Your dad’s bad health doesn’t require to be the focus. You might state you’re producing a will and it got you thinking of your father’s last dreams. (It’s OK to fib a bit here to help with the discussion, however even young and healthy grownups require an estate strategy, so get on it if you haven’t currently.)

As morbid as it appears, it’s completely sensible to ask your father concerns like whether he desires a conventional funeral service, his choices about being buried vs. cremated, and whether he has adequate cash in his savings account to make these things occur.

The typical funeral expenses about $9,000, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. But bear in mind that there are a lot of methods to honor somebody’s memory for far less cash. For circumstances, a direct cremation (implying the individual’s remains are instantly cremated without any watching) can cost around $1,000. Then, you might hold an event of life at someplace like a park or the individual’s preferred bar.

If having a fancy funeral service is essential to your dad, maybe you might put the onus on him. Tell him that your funds are restricted. In the worst-case circumstance that he passed away tomorrow, you’d just have $X to invest in a service. You might ask him whether he’s ever thought about life insurance coverage. Or if he has good cost savings, he might make his savings account payable on death to you or whoever he wishes to manage last plans.

Discussing death isn’t simple. But I’m thinking your father is aware of his own death. Understanding what your dad desires, in addition to what your function will be, will set both your minds at ease.

Robin Hartill is a qualified monetary coordinator and a senior author at The Penny Hoarder. Send your difficult cash concerns to [email protected].


A news media journalist always on the go, I've been published in major publications including VICE, The Atlantic, and TIME.

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