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Settling an estate...overwhelmed

Posted by free_at_last (My Page) on
Sun, Jan 8, 06 at 23:09

I posted part of this on the home finances forum, but decide to cross-post here also. We are seriously overwhelmed.. there is so much to do and feel completely drained. My father in law passed away after after suffering with terminal cancer for several monthes. A portion of the post from the other forum in repeated below:

"My very dear father in law passed away this weekend and left a small estate. My husband is executor of the will (although I'll be doing most of the needed paperwork, mailing, phone calling, etc.)He and his only sibling are to split whatever is left after paying bills, etc. Unfortunately, we have several obstacles to overcome and I was hoping to find advice here before going to a lawyer or other professional... that way I'd at least know what type of questions to ask :-)

First... where on earth do you start? We are seriously grieving and just going over to his small apartment sends my dh into a crying jag. So many things need to be done-- clearing out his apartment of furniture and personal belongings before rent is due Feb. 1st, selling his car, filing for insurance, paying final bills (especially medical bills.)

Second... the sibling is a raging alcoholic with all that implies. My FIL made dh executor of the will at the last minute (they were co-executors) because of the lying, stealing and manipulation of this individual. We're fairly sure that they cannot drain the accounts before we get the bills paid, but if it *is* possible, this individual will do that very thing. Is there anything we should be doing to keep this from happening?

Third... is there a list somewhere that tells step by step what's involved in this process? Something along the lines of:

1.) Have mail forwarded to new address
2) Wait for all Medicare bills to arrive
3) Write check to alcoholic sibling,
4) etc? "

I realize that this isn't a forum on finances, but any advice on how to deal with all these practical aspects of a loved one's passing while dealing with fresh grief would be greatly appreciated.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Settling an estate...overwhelmed

I am so sorry about your loss. Feeling overwhelmed is normal at this point.
I would start by contacting the Lawyer that drew up the will. He will help you get started.
I know one thing, a complete list of "inventory".
A list of all "outstanding bills".


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RE: Settling an estate...overwhelmed

I would seriously consider forking over the next month's rent in order to buy yourselves some time. The task of taking apart a beloved person's household is hard enough without the extreme time constraints you describe.

Secondly, recruit a couple of helpers. They won't be able to make decisions on what to keep and what to give away, but they can round up boxes and pack things in them. And they can help you make rational decisions when it's hard to think straight.

My mother died in October 1995, and I flew down to Florida in June the following year to clear out my parents' house and sell it. My dad had died two years earlier. I brought one of my grown daughters with me to help, and two of my mother's neighbors were a godsend as well. It took us a full two weeks to accomplish everything.

Best of luck, and keep us posted.

Susan


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RE: Settling an estate...overwhelmed

I feel for you. I had to clean out my mother's apartment after she died in September 2004. She had been in a nursing home for 6 months. The landlady was a busybody, always pouncing on me whenever I went over there. I knew my mother would not be able to return there, but I could not face beginning the cleanout. Plus I knew that as soon as she saw me doing it, she'd be on my a*s about "when are you going to be done?" Sure enough, FOUR DAYS after I buried my mother, she hit me up. I ended up paying for 2 full months (and most of the second month, she was hounding me) because there was so much to do. Mom had lived there for 25 years and I found boxes that had never even been unpacked from when they first moved in!

It's very hard to do this, especially when you're grieving, so try to give yourself an extra month, if at all possible. As far as forwarding the mail: your post office may simply accept a change of address card to your own address. Other times, they may require a death certificate and proof of executor status in order to make the change.


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RE: Settling an estate...overwhelmed

I'm so sorry for your loss. I too, would suggest that you pay an extra month's rent to buy some time.
I'm sorry I can't give you more advice, but I haven't had to deal with this one yet.
Lu


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RE: Settling an estate...overwhelmed

I join others in suggesting an extra month's rent if you can possibly swing it. That would take enormous pressure off you and your DH, and he can go through his father's things in a more thoughtful, meaningful manner. That would be important to him.

I sense you feel in a panic, but really as far as I know, there isn't any big rush to clear things up. I know how you feel though, you feel you have to dig right in and get thing settled.

As for concerns about the sibling getting into the accounts, if he is not a joint tenant or beneficiary on those accounts, I would think they are quite safe. However, if you are prioritizing things, you might wish to get access to the large accounts first before there is a chance of trouble.

It sounds like you are keeping good records, and that's great, because if the sibling has any questions, you will be able to show him/her how the funds are being collected, etc.

You have a lot of work ahead of you, and your husband is fortunate to have a smart person like you to assist. Good luck.


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RE: Settling an estate...overwhelmed

I was not involved in this process when we lost our parents, but I believe that the first thing that happened was that the attorney froze everything. It was set up that he was in charge of notifying creditors, paying bills, being the negotiator. And he gave the guidance about what to do and in what order. I know there are timelines for everything. Please see an attorney. I am so sorry for your loss.
Joanie


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RE: Settling an estate...overwhelmed

My parents died in 1984, and I went to the attorney and had him help me. We set up an estate account thru the bank, (I worked for the bank) my brother was and still is a alcolhic and very out of control. We put everything in the estate and paid all bills out of that account. Because there was so little furniture to sell, because the care taker continuted to rent the house, (nice person with family) most of the furniture went to her. All the mail came to me. The lawyer is quite reasonable, and gets paid for out of the estate funds. You may have to file IRS and state taxes, depends on the amount involved, your tax person can tell you. Any thing sold goes into the estate account.
Because I was already on their accounts, it was much easier. That money, was already mine. BUT, after all the bills were paid etc, I by my own choice, divided the money in half, started a seperate account for my brother, he was not on it, and sent him so much a month. That way he got so much and did not just drink/give away everything at the beginning. He knew how much was there, and when it was gone, that was it. NO MORE. Sometims I send him a token amount at Christmas, but most of the time he is on his own, and you know what??He survived, even living on the streets for awhile.
As to bills, go over each carefully. Many medical people will bill for services never received. If he had only medicare, you could get additional billings. Just let them know there is NO money, and most will charge them off.Again, get legal help ASAP, this will save you money and you can tell relatives and business, you have to discuss it with the lawyer. Email me if I can help you.
I am sorry about your FIL. Hugs and prayers for wise decisions and healing.


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RE: Settling an estate...overwhelmed

Get several copies of the death certificate ... you will need them.

I'm goping to assume the alcoholic brother will cause a stink ... good record keeping will head him off.

Keep CAREFUL track of all your expenses (receipts for packing boxes, the rent, etc.) because you are entitled to reasonable payment from the estate for this. Include funeral expenses in this.

Beware of fake bills: there is a slimy set of scammers that see an obituary and start sending invoices. Don't pay until you are certain it's legitimate.

For the apartment, start by disposing of all immediately visible trash (look through papers for unpaid bills and such) and opened foodstuffs and toiletries. Unopened food and toiletries can be given to a food bank or charity (keep the receipt).

Clothing can go to a charity: check ALL pockets and inside shoes and hats for cash and other items. The resale value of most used clothing is too small to bother with (unless he wore Armani).

Take digital pictures of each area before you pack ... quickly inventory, pack and remove any high-value items to a safe place. Make a list of the contents of each box as you pack (the inventory) and put it in an envelope taped to the outside of the box.

After that, work through each area, checking under drawers and drawer liners for stashed items. Remove drawers and look at the bottom (my gran was fond of taping envelopes of cash there). Look inside dressers when you remove drawers. If there is a solid bottom, things may be hidden there. As you clear areas, sort them into "keep" and "don't keep" or "trash" for broken things.

Use a ladder and check the very back of shelves. Look behind and under appliances.

At this point, give the other brother a chance to select any furniture (assuming it's not $$$ antiques) he wants, take what you want, then either have an estate sale or send the rest to charity. Keep track of the approximate value of any stuff (look in local consignment shops for similar things) so you can deduct it from the appropriate share.

Then you can either have an estate sale or call a second-hand store (or two) to make a bid on the remaining contents.

You might have to file your dad's taxes ... keep records. Look for life insurance policies

After the taxes, the estate sale, etc. it's time to settle up. Repay yourself for your legtimate expenses, deduct any money or the valuue of any items


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RE: Settling an estate...overwhelmed

Consult a lawyer who has expertise in estates. You can prepare by checking some websites that have information about laws in your state. This is not a do it yourself project without at least a consultation. Even small inheritances seem to bring out the worst in people, including latent stupidity. My husband and I have been involved with 3 estates where one of us was executor or administratrix. Having a good lawyer protected everyone's interests and helped speed up the process. Good luck.


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RE: Settling an estate...overwhelmed

Getting a good lawyer is usually a good move,depending on the state you live in. Ohio is a terrible place to probate a will, and even with a small and relatively uncomplicated estate, I(as executor) had to go to court. Having an attorney protected me, and the fact that one of my brothers has raised a major stink has helped me stay legal and in the clear with him. Be sure that you get everything under your control. Before my mom died, this brother went to her safety deposit box and took her 2 carat engagement ring...he was not co-signer on the box, I was. The only reason I didn't prosecute the bank was that this brother was getting married, and I knew my mom meant for him to have the ring. My brother has accused me of everything from foot-dragging to embezzlement, and my attorney has kept me above reproach. The legal fees will be about 3.5 % of the total estate, but it has been well worth it. My other brother has thanked me for taking care of this and taking care of my mom for the last 25 years. My mom spent every holiday and many, many other days with us. Mr. Greedy saw her 1-2x a year, tops. This has caused a major rift, but I guess I'm glad his true colors are evident. It's so sad to experience a death and then have to put up with this other obnoxious stuff.


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RE: Settling an estate...overwhelmed

My sincere condolences to you & your DH. Yes, an attorney is in order in your situation. I would also think retaining the apt a while longer would ease your minds.
Both my parents died last summer so this is my experience.
We had Dad's apt & after going through his things & having our choice of items during one week a needy couple my DB knew came & took everything that a 2nd hand furniture company didn't want. I couldn't believe the relief that was within such a short time. So, these are possibilities for you. Of course, some bills are still straggling in, but it's almost complete now. Mom was in her caregiver's home & she happily accepted some items we offered.

The emotional part is something that cannot be explained as each situation is so personal. Please have your legal help first off. Dad had his finances set up T.O.D. (transferred on death), so there were no taxes involved. We were very fortunate.
My prayers are with you....I know that is what helped us.
Sharlee


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RE: Settling an estate...overwhelmed

I'm sorry to resurrect this post after so long-- I hope some of you who so graciously answered this are still around. I should've responded last year, but we were just too broken up at the time to function well.

Please know that I read every post and made notes-- we followed everyone's advice... sometimes to the letter. And, best of all, my dh and his sibling are still speaking and actually on better terms now than before.

Thank you all for taking the time to answer so thoroughly. Your help made all the difference at a very difficult time. Many, many thanks :-)


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