I can hear it now – AND? Or WHY do I care?
For 37 years of my life, my grandmother wore an apron when she was cooking or cleaning. The reason she wore it was because she didn’t want to get her clothes dirty. The makes perfect sense. I wear gloves to protect my hands, sunglasses to protect my eyes, shoes to protect my feet (although I could easily be permanently barefoot) and dozens of other things.
The reason people hire us is because they don’t want to deal with all the emotional baggage when closing out a persons’ life after they pass away. There is no logic in hiring us, nothing that is rocket science. However, none of that matters when you are emotionally involved with the estate. There is no such thing as a simple call, one letter, not much to do or it won’t take long. And, each time something has to get done, the emotion is attached.
Here are a few reasons you may want to consider asking for some assistance:
- My dad only had one bank account ~ found out later he had four.
- My mom lived in a nursing home for four years ~ found out that nothing was done when she moved out of her home.
- My husband left everything to me so there’s nothing to do ~ found out later that when I remarried there were problems with adding my new husband’s name.
- My family wants to maintain control – found out later that asking for help isn’t giving up control but maintaining it, along with my sanity.
People do things for reasons, not logic ~
If you are looking at logic, there is no reason to hire us. But, if you are looking for some help during a long and difficult time, consider the reasons why you want to hire us. We’ll be here to help.
OK, I really tried to find a way to work in the LEAP thing because this day only happens once a year. Maybe I’ll get it next time.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I think it’s possible to take care of things when you know what to take care of. But, what about the things you don’t know about that have to be taken care of that you don’t know to ask about? It’s a bit of a mad circle that is hard to get out of.
This is the case when someone is closing the estate of a loved one. If there are two consistent statements I hear it’s either “there isn’t any money in the estate so there’s nothing to do” or “everything was taken care of and put in order before they died.” Neither of these statements is true nor applicable to the actual closing of the estate.
Here are a few things to know as you take on the role as trustee or personal representative.
ID theft happens, even after death. The last thing you want to do is re-live the pain of losing your loved one again by having to deal with ID theft. It’s so easy to find social security numbers and information on the web, even if your loved one never owned a computer. Not dealing with even seemingly simple tasks leaves the estate vulnerable to unscrupulous people.
It won’t take long so I’ll just handle it. Ask anyone who’s done it and they’ll tell you that it took so much longer and was so much harder than they ever thought. Not only is it something you’ve never done or know how to do, the frame of mind that you are in makes it all that more difficult.
This will be the last thing I have to do. Generally speaking, the “last thing” usually generates one more “last thing” that has to be done. One phone call to “this place” results in another phone call to “that place” which results in another phone call and so on and so on. It seems to never end, especially when you have no one to help you during this difficult and emotional time.
Closing the estate isn’t something that can or should be taken lightly. It’s a great responsibility with a lot more work than what appears on the surface. Give yourself permission to get help. Yes, it may cost money but the emotional toll, time away from work and family, travel, research and other things cost as well.
So, take a LEAP and really get everything done, properly. Ok, I know it was a stretch, but I did try.
After the Fact – Final Affairs
My dentist wants me to brush and floss three times a day, I brush three, sometimes more. My A/C guy wants me to change my filter every month, my husband does that (thank you!). My car company wants me to change my oil every 3,000 miles, I do every 5,000 and they want me to rotate my tires then too, can’t remember when I did that last. My carpet cleaner wants me to have them cleaned every 12 months, I barely vacuum the few rooms that do have carpet. My estate attorney wants me to review my documents every year ~ her suggestion is on New Years’ Day ~ I do that. My planner wants me to update my beneficiaries every year, mine haven’t really changed in quite a while.
I could go on but you get the idea.
I’m all for maintenance. My car is 10 years old; it has less than 100,000 miles; it is clean; it is lubed; and it gets me where I need to go. It’s not especially pretty on the outside but that’s not the most important thing to me. My teeth are great! My parents spent several thousand dollars on braces so I feel the least I can do is take care of them, they aren’t easily replaceable.
We could spend a great deal of our time on maintenance for everything we have; material and abstract alike. But, if we are truthful about it, most of us will opt not do anything until there is a problem.
This works in almost every case except death. There is no backing up, no fixing, no maintenance, nothing. Just the end with no option to say one more thing, do one more thing, fix one more thing, or maintain one more thing.
If there is one more thing that I have learned in my profession it’s to “maintenance” the things that are really important; your faith; your family; your friends; your mental, emotional and physical health. Yes other things are important, but no one thinks about those at the end, they only think about the time you spent maintaining the relationship with them. I’m sure these are the MOST important ones.
Have you ever given any thought to what a lifetime constitutes? Is it how many years you lived? Is it what you have done? Is it where you have gone? Is it who you have helped?
That question came to me when I saw a commercial for cancer survivors. The tagline was “because everyone deserves a lifetime.” If you die at age 100, couldn’t you argue that if you live only to age 75, you were cheated out of 25 years? What about Christine Taylor-Green? She was killed at age 9, which most people certainly wouldn’t say is a lifetime. What about a 28 year old beauty queen who left behind a husband and a 2 year old child? Did she miss a lifetime because she didn’t get to see her grow up? As the saying goes, life is not fair.
After pondering this question for several days I believe a lifetime is what you make of the time you have. Whether it’s developing software that almost everyone on the planet uses or if you were the wife and mother who took care of the husband, raised the kids and devoted your entire life to their benefit, a lifetime can only be determined on a case by case basis.
One of the best parts of my job is listening to families talk about the life of the loved one. Where they lived, what their life was like, where they worked, what hobbies they had, what made them interesting, how much time they spent together and how their lifetime was filled.
If, at the end of the day, we can help one family NOT have to go through what I did at my dad’s death, it has been a successful day. I hope my lifetime will be filled with service, no matter how long that may be.
Today is the 2nd anniversary of my dad’s passing. Two years ago I had the privilege of spending the last 12 days of his life with him. The very last thing we did together was recite bible verses, him by memory me by reading. When he became too tired to continue, he asked me to read to him, my choice. I chose Hebrews 11, Faith in Action. You can read it here http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=hebrews%2011&version=NIVIt’s now a tradition that on the morning of November 30th each year, I read the entire chapter out loud to him again. It is a wonderful reminder of the man my father was. He was never a millionaire in money but was one in friends; he never owned a super fancy car but he always had transportation; he never had a closet full of tailored clothes but he always had something to wear; he never had the highest grade steak but he always had food to eat; he didn’t have a perfect life but was married for 45 years and had 2 children who married and gave him 4 grandchildren.Ask me today what kind of life I hope to have when I reach the end, my answer is “I want to be as wealthy as my father was.”Tisha
If there is one sentence I hear more than any other it's "where were you when my (fill in the blank here) died. I really needed some help."It’s hard to define what being a trustee really feels like. Yes, there are hundreds of basic checklists but nothing that is really detailed. For those of us who have had to do it, especially more than once, we could put it into words now. However, unless the person you are talking to has been through it they think their situation is different or there won’t be much to do or that they can handle it. We know from experience that it’s not true.Here are a few things to keep in mind when you have to close an estate.
Despite all of these things, we feel an obligation to do what our loved one asked of us but we want to stay in control. I was no different and neither are most of the people we meet. What I can tell you is, when you get to the point that you can’t do it anymore there is help. You will benefit by saving time, money, frustration, stress, mental exhaustion and that feeling of being overwhelmed. In the end, it really only has to get done and it might not have to be by you, it may be with you.Tisha
- It’s going to take 10 times longer to complete than what you think it will. Don’t cancel anything immediately or buy anything immediately. Both of these decisions have a tendency to cause more problems and more work later on, which makes it take longer.
- It’s going to cost more than what you think it will. Cost isn’t necessarily defined by money. It will cost more in personal time, emotions, mental exhaustion, frustration, overwhelm, stress and countless other things you aren’t even aware of yet.
- It’s going to be harder than you think it will be. We all have our specialty profession and know that we can do it better than anybody else. But as smart as we all are, trying to learn and do something new during a time of grief makes it tremendously harder than it would under normal circumstances.
- It’s going to be bigger than you think it will be. Yes, some estates look small, some people don’t get out much or don’t have an active life; but there was a time when they were out there living going places, doing things, putting their finger on the internet as well. That means there will be items that will sneak up on you that have to be dealt with. It’s not pretty when it happens either.
Can you think of things that DON’T have an “app” for them? Child birth, as much as women would probably love one; parenting, again, as much as we would like to have one some days; sleeping, I would love this one; showering, no way would I give up those; and somehow possibly unfairly, grieving.
When I get into my office in the morning, the first thing I do is start up the computer, check e-mails, go to my two favorite sites and quickly scan them, check the news, and print off my to do list. All of these require “apps” to run. Then I return e-mails, review reports from staff, take a look at the marketing plan, work on processes for the business; and a myriad of other tasks throughout the day. All of these things require “apps” as well.
But, when a family calls to ask about our service and how we can help them, there is no “app” for that. Taking time to listen, answer questions and reassure them that we understand and empathize with their situation takes a real person. Every conversation is different; each person is at a different point in the process. No “app” is required.
I’m a fan of most things that can make my life easier; make my work more efficient; help with communication to staff in field. However, I’m not a fan of taking away a human touch when one is really needed.
Regardless of how many “apps” there are that apply to any number of situations, when a family calls us, they are going to get the human “app” before anything else. Try it, it’s a great one!
One of the benefits of aging are the lessons you learn, and not necessarily the hard way. Here are a few that I’ve learned, some just in the last few weeks.
It’s a good day when you realize you don’t know everything, but a lot of the people know can fill in the blank spots. Tisha
- “I’m sorry, please forgive me” goes a long way, maybe not to the end but at least enough to talk about it.
- Most 18 year old kids don’t understand money, even if you think you taught them.
- Silence can truly be golden, especially if the person just needs a shoulder to cry on.
- End users aren’t your clients, people who need you and want to use your service are.
- Your true friends will love and accept you, even when you screw up royally!
- If you treat adults like adults, most will respond in the same way.
- That if your kids are mad at you daily, you are probably doing something right.
- Everyone needs someone that they can tell anything too, regardless of what it is.
- Best friends are that, probably because you don’t have to live with them.
- Lastly, at the end, you don’t think about how much you worked but how important family is.