As the only surviving child, I have been called upon to settle the estate of my mother who passed away last summer. Fortunately, she had put everything into trust about four months before her passing, which has made things a lot easier on me. You see, I am not a detail oriented person; I look at the big picture to figure out what needs to be done. Prior to her passing, when it became clear it was imminent, I began familiarizing myself with all the paperwork involved, and there was a lot of it. I met with her attorney, who became my attorney, to review all the procedures and things I still had to do. I felt as if my head were spinning and wouldn’t stop. In the end, she told me I was doing very well. I recall saying to her that I could not imagine an uneducated person doing this.
Her will became part of the trust documents. Her ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (DNR) became part of the trust document. She did not make any kind of list of what she owned; she just trusted me to distribute her belongings as I saw fit. Clothes were donated to an organization of which she had spoken highly. Her car was donated (just recently) to an organization that tries to fulfill the wishes of dying children and many of her household goods went to a community organization. She felt that if that organization could get even $.25 for a pair of salt and pepper shakers, more power to them. Books went to the Friends of the Library in her town. Ironically, she had gotten many books at previous library sales. Some books went to schools her children had attended. We are always finding more. Hundreds of pictures were sent back to their subjects-mostly relatives.
My mother was very good with money. I’ll bet she never missed a credit card payment, an installment payment, or a house payment in her life (Needless to say, I’ve missed all except the house payment in my life). When looking through records, I found that she had paid everything up as far as she could: House insurances, car insurances and any kind of insurances she could think of. Her health insurance, some covered by Medicare, was up-to-date.
Before he passed away more than 34 years ago, my father had made it his wish that the electric company stock they owned should go to their granddaughter, my niece. It took a couple of months to clear up, but it got done. Haven’t heard from the child in three months.
I guess a non-lawyer piece of advice would be: Talk to your parents or other loved ones, if it even seems you will be remotely involved in settling final matters. Know their wishes so you can recite them by heart. Know things about final resting places and anything they might want on a headstone. Seems rather grim, but it will be time well spent in the end.