Headstone Cost and Funeral Travel

I am executor of an estate and the beneficiaries do not get on:

  1. Headstone

The beneficiaries cannot agree the wording of the Headstone.

One of the beneficiaries wants to own the grave and have exclusive rights on the wording of the headstone.

The other beneficiary does not want the cost of the headstone to be deducted as a funeral expense, if the wording is not agreed by all the parties and ownership of the grave is not in all the parties names.

The parties will not be able to agree the wording.

As executor is the Headstone an expenses of the estate or does the cost need to be agreed by all the beneficiaries.

  1. Funeral Travel

One beneficiary who did not drive had to travel to the funeral by taxi (£120) but was taken home by a friend. The other beneficiary is unhappy that this is being treated as a funeral expenses.

Is the taxi fair a valid funeral expense.

Thank you for your assistance

Rachel Stafford
Solicitor
Rachel Stafford Legal Services

  1. Yes, a headstone is a funeral expense - you would only be wise to seek agreement if the expense were something extraordinary.
  2. No,I’m not at all sure that a beneficiary’s taxi is a funeral expense. It doesn’t sound like it to me.

Re the headstone, I should add that i’m not certain that the executor has ultimate authority on the grave and funeral (you may well do, I just don’t know it for certain).

Regarding the headstone whilst, as Andrew indicates, the cost (reasonable) is a funeral expense the right to erect a headstone belongs to the person named on the Deed as owner of the exclusive right of burial in the grave. Thus, any wording is also a matter for the person named on the Deed.

Like Andrew the taxi fare would not seem to be a funeral expense.

Someone dies, and all hell breaks loose amongst the family and relatives. Merry Christmas.

Malcolm Finney

On reflection is there not a difference between those costs etc which are deductible for IHT purposes and those costs etc over which the PRs have responsibility or discretion which may not, either in total or part, be IHT deductible?

So wrt the post above could the PRs agree to repay the taxi costs (assuming they are reasonable in the circumstances in the views of the PRs) even though HMRC will deny their IHT deductibility?

The PRs have the sole right to determine where and how the deceased’s body is to be disposed of but presumably need access to a grave. Normally, I assume that the deceased would have “purchased” a grave plot (for him and the wife) which “right” passes to the PRs who then have total responsibility over the tombstone and writing thereon. But what if the deceased had not purchased a plot?

Malcolm Finney

I am the sole executor and so as the deceased owner the grave I have exclusive rights, but as the beneficiaries are at odds I don’t feel I can transfer the grave to one or other, and so unless they can agree the wording I will just have to retain a sum of client account and let them thrash it out between them and pay the headstone once it has been agreed by them both.

Deceased owned the plot and so I now have exclusive rights as PR. I feel it is fair and reasonable for all the beneficiaries to agree headstone if they are all contributing towards it as a cost of the estate.

I do think a taxi fair for a daughter to attend a funeral is reasonable if she doesn’t drive.

  1. Headstone: whilst you are legally the owner of the grave plot and the headstone if it was already in place, If not, then unless the Will authorises you to pay for the stone and inscription out of the estate you are not going to be able to proceed with arranging this. To do so you will have to obtain the agreement of the residuary beneficiaries to do this. If that agreement is not forthcoming because they cannot agree the type of stone and the wording then it may be that no stone or inscription can be provided. I would suggest that you obtain 2 estimates for the stone and a standard inscription and submit these to the beneficiaries for agreement and also ask them to put forward their suggested inscriptions. From these draw up your own so that both sides get credit and hopefully that will satisfy them.
    2 taxi : if the person who used the taxi is also a beneficiary, you can offer to pay the taxi fare but make it clear that it will be deducted from his share of the estate.

Merry Christmas

Patrick Moroney

The right to erect a headstone belongs to the person named on the Deed as owner of the exclusive right of burial in the grave. However, as Patrick states, if the headstone is not in situ prior to the death the issue of costs arises. In the absence of any statement in the will wrt any costs the agreement of the residuary beneficiaries to pay the costs of the headstone or memorial must be obtained; any failure to obtain prior agreement to incurring the costs means that the PRs run the risk of having to personally discharge them.

Wrt the taxi cost for the beneficiary it does seem clear that the PRs cannot simply discharge them without agreement of the residuary beneficiaries. Clearly, offering to pay them and then deducting them from their share of the residuary estate isn’t actually/really paying. Obviously, the beneficiary is seeking reimbursement but not out of their share.

Malcolm Finney

The headstone is an estate expense. The owner of the grave, usually the next of kin (in this case the spouse) is the only person who can specify the headstone, wording etc but he needs the cooperation of the executors to have the headstone paid for, so it makes sense to cooperate. If the next of kin/spouse wants a large double headstone he is expected to pay for half. If it is just wording then there should be no need for him to pay. If the executors have organised the funeral and burial and therefore have the contract with the funeral director, then they can specify the headstone, however the funeral director will usually only deal with the next of kin unless there is a good reason not to.

Taxi fares are not an expense of the estate

Kat, Rachel’s question did not mention there being a spouse involved.

Patrick Moroney