admin September 13, 2018




Dear Moneyist,

My brother passed away suddenly from a heart attack. His oldest son was living in the same town and we were trying to arrange the funeral. His son arranged to have the body brought back from Oklahoma to Louisiana for a family service and made all the funeral arrangements. My brother had five children and it was my assumption that they would handle the expenses.

To make a long story short, his son (my nephew) was short about $6,800 and I agreed to lend him the funds and we talked of him paying me back on a monthly basis. In the beginning, I would ask for money and he would send $100 or so to me since he had recently moved to another town. He paid me another $700 and then stopped paying me after I texted him and asked him if he ever was going to pay me any more on his debt.

Don’t miss: I borrowed $100,000 from my father before he died — my family says I should repay it

At that point, he said that he owed me nothing and did not intend to pay me at all. I am 80 years old and had a very good relationship with my brother and I really did lend him the money because I loved my brother dearly (my only sibling). Even then, as I told his son, my brother would never expect me to pay $6,800 for a $14,000 funeral.

My brother served in the military and we could find no evidence that my brother had insurance and, if he had life insurance, it all went to his ex-wife and their two children. Is there any hope of me getting any of my money back? Even half would help. I guess in my case there is no cure for stupid.

Disappointed Aunt and Sister

Dear Disappointed,

He pulled the old drib-drab trick. He promised to pay you back. He only did so in increments, until they became irregular and then he finally lowered your expectations when his repayments turned into a trickle — a trickle you may have been grateful for — and then nothing. It was always going to end that way.

When you lend money to a family member without a promissory note, you are relying on two things: goodwill and hot air. Neither turn out to be terribly reliable. The only leverage you have is the strength of your relationship and, when that relationship becomes broken by an unwillingness or inability to pay, there is no reason for him to continue paying.

While $14,000 seems expensive for a funeral, many people do end up paying more than they expect. The average funeral costs between $6,000 and $10,000. A casket typically costs around $3,000, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Removing a person’s body from one state to another, however, can cost up to $3,000.

Also see: This is what happens when you lend money to a relative (hint: it doesn’t end well)

Firstly, check the cost of your brother’s funeral. If the money was not used for the services, you may have a stronger case should you decide to take your nephew to small claims court. The FTC also states that funeral homes have to break out the costs for a funeral so people don’t end up overpaying for extras during an emotionally vulnerable time.

Gather any emails, correspondence and other documents you may have relating to the loan. Without a contract, it will be extremely difficult to prove that this was a loan rather than a gift. That’s the most common defense in cases where family members have loaned each other money. It’s also tough to disprove without written evidence.

VeteranAid.org may be able to help your brother’s family navigate any financial aid. This site explains what documents they need. You are not a beneficiary, so the risk is that your brother’s son could pocket that money too. Your nephew is operating on an honor system, one that he has already openly flouted. There are no guarantees.

All that said, you must now decide whether all the effort and stress involved in retrieving this money is really worth your time.

Also see: Is this the worst tipper in America?

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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