Now the Legal Stuff

Well, hello, everyone. Sorry I’ve been away for SOOO long. The time seems to have flown by. It’s already a little over a month since my mother went to be with the Lord and it seems like yesterday.

I don’t think one really understands what all this caregiving at the end of life stuff is about until one goes through it. I certainly didn’t. There is so MUCH that floods into your mind, that you have to see to and tend to. And the weird thing is that it doesn’t end upon the death of the one you are caring for. At least not if you are the Executor, as I am. Not just the Executor, but a clueless executor. 
My mother made a very simple will back in January when we did all the stuff with durable power of attorney and health care POA. I also had her put me on her bank account as a joint holder and that was a wonderful bit of advice I received from the clerk that has saved us tons of trouble. In any case, she doesn’t have very much (but she does have a house, which is the complicating factor) and she left it all to me and my sister to be divided equally. We naively thought that we’d just transfer the title for house and car to me, sell them and split what is left. Ha. I went down to DMV about three weeks ago, expecting to transfer the title to the car (this after having called ahead to ask what I was supposed to do) only to learn that  I had to wait until a month after the person had died. That was so everything could go through probate. “What’s probate?” I asked. The clerk didn’t know, only that I had to wait a month and if my mother owns a house, that means she has more assets than $50,000 and so must go to probate. I drove home wondering how in the world I was supposed to get us through probate when I had no idea what it was. Who would I even call? Wouldn’t someone call me?
Apparently not. I went on-line, learned that it’s the legal process of establishing the validity of a will, and in small estates doesn’t usually require court appearances, you just have to file the papers. Since I also had to look up “equity” I decided I would probably be better off having a lawyer do all this filing, since it’s supposedly somewhat non-intuitive. You can get the forms (where??) but then you have to know which ones to fill out and how to fill them out and what the weird terms are … so… About two weeks after my mother’s death I hired a probate lawyer and am very glad I did. I have NO idea how I would have figured out how to fill out the inch-high stack of papers he had for me to sign before filing. Plus he’s there to email if ever I have questions. He got me a tax ID number to open an estate account into which I could transfer my mother’s funds and deposit refund checks addressed only to her…  I have learned an awful lot about all that stuff in the last month. It’s kind of mind-boggling.

In addition to all that, we had to stop the magazines, the newspaper, the credit cards,  notify her friends about her passing, think about a memorial service… We didn’t have a funeral, in part because she was cremated and in part because she was a private person, not given to ceremony. Will we write an obituary? She told my sister that if we did, we were NOT to put a photo of her along with it. 

I spent a week trying to determine the worth of her various works of art — indian arts and paintings.  Also working through the insurance bills — one for the last hospitalization came less than a week after she died, a letter that informed me they’d talked to the insurance company which had confirmed we owed such and such amount. The only thing was, I knew she was fast approaching her out of pocket maximum and wasn’t so sure she’d have to pay the whole thing. I decided to wait until I got an Explanation of Benefits… I’m still waiting.

Then there was the matter of going through her things. Our initial foray into that was just to throw away the obvious junk, and anyone who wanted something could take what they want. Adam and Kim stayed an extra day and a half that first week. Kim went home with my mother’s set of blue enamel cookware… very nice stuff, but both Deb and I have what we want and didn’t need it. We also raided her rubber stamp supplies and that was fun. Actually we had a lot of fun, being together, discovering photos, reminiscing. Adam went through her extensive CD collection and tried to organize them somewhat. We found one she’d kept with a sticky note on it that said “Not Good” and we all laughed at that. The fact that she didn’t like it, yet kept it… 🙂
The downside, though, is that when I bring stuff home, it’s there. My house has no holding space for new things. If something new comes in, something old has to go out, but there’s been no time to figure out what the old thing is going to be. Or, if I do know, I’m still trying to arrange how to get the stuff moved out. First it was a lot of art supplies that I’d gathered in preparation for donating to  the watercolor guild. That took about a week to actually make the connection with a guild member to move the stuff out.  

Then came the yard sale — I got in a car accident the very morning of the sale, while I was out placing signs. But that’s a story I’ll save for another day… This post has gotten too long already. Hopefully I’ll be back to continue it tomorrow.

5 thoughts on “Now the Legal Stuff

  1. KC Frantzen

    Wow Karen,
    Been thinking of you but didn’t think about what all you would need to be doing.
    Thanks for sharing here, so we can save this in our to be done file, when the time comes.
    Agree with Lori. Hope you’re ok!

  2. Donna Hagan

    Sorry to hear about your mom and hope you recover quickly from your accident. Thanks for sharing the “details” of being Executor though – it was very informative.

  3. Loren Warnemuende

    Dear Karen,

    So good to hear from you again! I’ve been praying for you and wondering how things were going. I’m so thankful that your family has been able to work together smoothly as you go through your mom’s stuff and enjoy memories as you do so. As you said, there’s so MUCH, and if you had extended family issues to go along with it, it would be ten times harder.

    I’m praying you’re recovering fine from your accident, and looking forward to hearing more from you!

  4. Rebecca LuElla Miller

    Continuing to pray for you, Karen. Sounds like the hardest part of managing the “stuff” is winding down. The grief part isn’t as easy to dispose of as the rest.

    May the God of all comfort continue to bring the joy of remembrance.



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