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Estate must be reimbursed for funeral expenses

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The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a trial court's approval of money received in a wrongful death suit of an Indianapolis attorney to be used to reimburse his estate for funeral and burial expenses. His widow, who paid for those expenses and received reimbursement from the estate, argued the wrongful death award wasn't itemized to include a portion for funeral expenses so the estate shouldn't be reimbursed.

In In the Matter of the Supervised Administration of the Estate of Lawrence W. Inlow, deceased; Anita Inlow and Anita Inlow as guardian of Jesse Inlow v. Jason L. Inlow, et al., No. 29A02-0712-CV-1039, Anita Inlow, the widow of Lawrence W. Inlow appealed, believing Indiana Code Section 34-23-1-1 requires the payment of funeral and burial expenses from a wrongful death award to an estate only when the award specifies what amount should go toward funeral expenses. If the award is able to be used to reimburse the estate, she contends she and her dependent son will receive no portion of those monies.

The appellate court examined I.C. Section 34-23-1-1, which in part states, "That part of the damages which is recovered for reasonable medical, hospital, funeral and burial expense shall inure to the exclusive benefit of the decedent's estate for the payment thereof."

The defendants in this case, the personal representative of Inlow's estate and his four adult children from a previous marriage, argue the statute requires the damages to be used first to reimburse the estate for the funeral and burial costs incurred whether or not a portion of the damages award was designated for these expenses.

Authoring Judge Nancy Vaidik and Judge Paul Mathias agreed with the trial court after examining the wrongful death statute and Indiana Code 34-51-2, which deals with compensatory damages for injuries or death to someone or harm to property. There is no statutory requirement for itemization of damages, and it would be illogical to impose a requirement for wrongful death suits when no requirement exists for other personal injury awards, wrote Judge Vaidik.

The majority also found it was apparent the parties during the settlement contemplated the costs of Lawrence's funeral and burial because the wrongful death cause specifically referred to those expenses in the complaint.

Judge Melissa May dissented, writing the statute specifically addressing wrongful death awards should control, and that statute requires the amount of damages to be categorized as medical, hospital, or funeral and burial expenses, or all other damages. The damages categorized as medical, hospital, funeral and burial go to the estate and all other damages go to the widow and dependent children, she wrote.

"The statute is explicit that funeral and burial expenses are, in this context, an estate obligation. The majority result burdens Anita with an expense (in the form of her loss of wrongful death benefits) the estate should incur," she wrote. "I would accordingly remand for the measurement and categorization of damages Ind. Code § 34-23-1-1 requires and for distribution consistent with that section."

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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