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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. I will be filing a lawsuit in Tippecanoe County for so many violations in a case we became involved in, including failure to contact through mail, Violation of 4th Amendment rights, Violation of Civil Rights, and so on. Even the Indiana Ombudsmen Bureau found violations and I have now received the report and they are demanding further training in Tippecanoe County. I am going to make sure they follow through!!!

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  3. I thought the purpose of the criminal justice center was to consolidate all the criminal services and get them out of downtown to clean up the place. Why in the HELL are the civil courts moving? What a burden to all the downtown law firms. Now we all get to work downtown, but then have to get in a car and COMMUTE to court? Who approved this idiocy?

  4. I drive through the neighborhood whenever I go to the City-County Building or the Federal Courthouse. The surrounding streets are all two way with only two lanes of traffic, and traffic is very slow during rush hour. I hope that enough money has been allocated to allow for improvement of the surrounding streets.

  5. I have had an ongoing custody case for 6 yrs. I should have been the sole legal custodial parent but was a victim of a vindictive ex and the system biasedly supported him. He is an alcoholic and doesn't even have a license for two yrs now after his 2nd DUI. Fast frwd 6 yrs later my kids are suffering poor nutritional health, psychological issues, failing in school, have NO MD and the GAL could care less, DCS doesn't care. The child isn't getting his ADHD med he needs and will not succeed in life living this way. NO one will HELP our family.I tried for over 6 yrs. The judge called me an idiot for not knowing how to enter evidence and the last hearing was 8 mths ago. That in itself is unjust! The kids want to be with their Mother! They are being alienated from her and fed lies by their Father! I was hit in a car accident 3 yrs ago and am declared handicapped myself. Poor poor way to treat the indigent in Indiana!

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