How do I reclaim funeral expenses for brother separated from wife?

Published date31 October 2023
My question is: who do I send all the rest of the bills to? For example, the flowers for the funeral, the food after the funeral, the headstone

I have never had to deal with anything like this. I borrowed money from people to pay all these expenses, as my parents do not have much money at all.


There’s a lot of sadness in your letter, alongside the understandable confusion over what happens now. When someone dies at a young age, like your brother, suddenly we find ourselves thrown into a world of the unfamiliar.

Dealing with the minutiae of organising a funeral when we have no experience of such things can be really stressful and bewildering, especially given the speed at which such things generally happen in Ireland.

That’s tough enough when everyone is pulling in the same direction. When you are dealing with fractured families, as in your case, it is even worse.

Let’s walk through a few of the issues here. First, the lack of a will.

Clear rules

I’m not going to go back through the whole argument about wills, except to say that your brother’s case clearly illustrates why you are never too young to have one. As soon as you have any assets – a home (albeit with mortgage) – or family, especially children, you really need to have a will. Otherwise, you have no control over what happens your estate when you die.

In situations like this, where you have a marital break-up, with all the discord that can ensure, it is even more critical as your assumptions about who should benefit from your estate may well change.

But we’re too late for that here, so your brother’s estate is at the mercy of the Succession Act and the rules on intestacy.

They are very clear. Where he has a wife and children, the estate is divided with his wife getting two-thirds of the net estate and any children one-third. There is no discretion on this, so your sister-in-law’s solicitor – presuming they are advising on or managing the estate – will need to make provision for a third of your brother’s assets to be held in trust for your nephew, his son until he reaches the age of 18.

So it is not the case that your brother’s estranged wife will get everything. In fact, what she gets at all will be determined by the nature of her separation from her husband.

Separation does not automatically disenfranchise someone when it comes to succession rights; it depends very much on the terms of the separation.

It would not be unusual where there is a formal legal separation agreement or an even more...

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