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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. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

  5. Attorney? Really? Or is it former attorney? Status with the Ind St Ct? Status with federal court, with SCOTUS? This is a legal newspaper, or should I look elsewhere?

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