What to do if I’m being taken to small claims court for the expenses of my father’s funeral by my uncle?

UPDATED: Oct 28, 2013

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What to do if I’m being taken to small claims court for the expenses of my father’s funeral by my uncle?

We had an agreement for each member of the family to pay $190 to meet the costs, they are suing me for $1900. I attempted to pay my uncle the $190 and he flat out refused to accept it. Second, my mother who was not married to my father and is named as the primary defendant. I don’t see how she is liable for any funeral costs. Not once were we contacted requesting that we pay the amount we are being sued for. My uncle stole my father’s burial flag I was given it at the service then he lied to gain possession of it than tried to ransom it back to me. Anyway the court can order him to return the flag?

Asked on October 28, 2013 under Estate Planning, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) No person is obligated to pay for another's funeral except and only to the extent they agreed to pay for it. And if they agreed to it, they would only be obligated to the amount they agreed to pay. Therefore, legally, you would not seem to be liable, but bear in mind that if a number of other people are prepared to testify against you (e.g. to testify in court that the agreement was you'd pay up to $1,900), then you could lose, unless you have something in writing supporting your position.

2) A court could in theory order your uncle to return the flag, but small claims court cannot--it doesn't have that power. You'd have to sue in "regular" district or county could, which could be prohibitively expensive.

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