Thursday, December 3, 2009


The other day Bart posted an accounting tip that cured a headache.  This information was rattling around this scrambled brain, but I needed to have it spelled out to me.  Explanation:  We are having to value everything in Mom's estate.  Bart's advice answered a question.   Bless him.

In handling my mother's estate, here are some things I've learned:

*Have a will made.  BUT, make sure it is SO detailed that everyone knows who gets that sliver of soap left in the soap dish.  Oh, yes, it is extremely important for the will to be almost that detailed.  Putting a sticker on each item is great, but make sure it is also written down somewhere - preferably in the will.
*Any extra notes/wishes not in the will should be in your own handwriting.  DO not have someone else do this unless it is signed and witnessed by about 6 people.  (An exaggeration, but you get the idea.)
*Depending on which state (laws, taxes vary state to state) you live in and the size of the estate you might wish to make a Family Trust or something similar.  Sometimes this has be done a certain number of years before you pass away!
*Keep your financial records up to date even if your finances aren't.
*Keep a detailed "paper trail" so that someone can walk in and take over for you.  With the computer, so few people do this.  This can be a simple notebook kept in a kitchen drawer.  List the who, what, what, when, where, why and how.  This rule doesn't just apply to good journalism.
*It is extremely important to have someone who doesn't live with you know where life insurance records are kept, where the combinations to safes are hidden, in which bank(s) you have safety deposit boxes and where the keys are, where passwords are kept, what the names of your computer files are, in which banks you have accounts, etc etc etc.
*Have a family member be able to sign checks and/or transfer money from accounts in the event of an severe illness or death.
*Give others power of attorney, but make it so that others can't willy-nilly commit you.
*Having a living will.
*Have a minimum of $10,000 life insurance.  Preferably much more.  It will take the full $10,000 for a simple casket and funeral.  Cemetery plot, headstone and engraving are separate expenses.
*Have your cemetery plot picked out and paid for.  Do this through the cemetery people and have a written receipt.  And, check about once a year that this is still on record.
*Hire a trusted attorney.
*Hire a trusted accountant.
*Know that even with everything spelled out for you and the rest of the family, someone will probably be or get PO'd at you or another family member.

*Know that you will probably get very angry will some of your family members. 

*Know that someone else might try and probably will try very hard to run "the show" for you and/or pass themselves off as the only one that has the right to say or do anything.

*Know that there are going to be gaps in knowledge about how things should be handled.

*Know that if there is one person that has always "had an attitude" (to put it nicely) that attitude will rear its ugly head with a vengence in this time of stress.

*Know that if you think/know all these things couldn't happen in your family, they're probably going to anyway.

If one knows ahead that they are going to inherit an estate (large or small), try to be prepared as possible. Maybe you aren't going to inherit anything, but will have to handle the the final details of a friend or loved one.   Either way dealing/handling/taking care of all this is extremely expensive.

-First there is time off work.
-There is often travel/motel/eating out expenses.
-There are often long distance telephone bills.  (We maxed out our time on our cell phones.)
-There are often medical bills to pay.
-If there is a house/property involved, mortgage payments, electricity, telephone (no cell phone service at my mom's), utilities, insurance, possibly lawn care, etc. still have to be paid until the house is sold or rented.
-There may be repairs or improvements that will have to be made in order to rent or sell. 
-There is often a car that has to have at least one payment made before being legally able to sell it.  You may have to pay for another 6 months of insurance and maybe even renew the license plates/tags.
-In our case, the homeowners insurance and property taxes came due, too.  OUCH
-There are miscellaneous expenses too numerous and unexpected to list.

I don't know about other states, but in Idaho if the estate doesn't have the money to pay these expenses the inheritors have to pay them.  If the inheritors don't, these debts go against the inheritors credit ratings and/or the inheritors will lose the property due to foreclosures. 

If the deceased was on Social Security, the benefits should stop immediately.  If any SS money comes in after, don't spend it unless it is the final reimbursement.  (There will be a form that comes first - there is always paperwork.)

There are attorney and accountant fees, but their advice is invaluable.

In the state of Idaho, it can take 6 to 9 months for a will to be probated.  YES!  And guess who pays all the bills in the mean time - the inheritors.

This was long.  I'm sorry, but maybe some of this will help someone else someday.


Aunt Amelia's Attic said...


Good advice. But not always heeded, ahead of time.

-repeat sigh-

And as to your worry that I could have more infection with my root canal... It isn't hurting today. And I am still taking the ^&(*&^%$ antibiotic. -evil grin- The 10 days of it, won't be up till tomorrow/Friday. So I can't have more infection.

Thank you for the concern. Just letting you know that all seems much, much better.

Gingerella said...

Excellent advice!

Anonymous said...

Sheesh! I knew there was a lot of stuff dealing with an estate, but I had no idea!

FWIW, in Louisiana, we live under "Napoleonic Code". Sons/Daughters are not responsible for their parent's debts. So if mom dies with medical bills, the creditors are supposed to take it from the estate. If there's not enough in the estate, they eat the cost. At least it was like this when my grandfather died when I was 15 (uhh, 26 years ago!)

My dad is VERY detailed, so we shouldn't have any problems. He has appointed Redd & my bil as "executor of the will". My brother I hate to see what is going to go down when my brother realizes that his crappy relationship w/my parents has caused him to lost out on 3/4th of his inheritance. How do I know this? My dad has told me already. I hope things change, but I doubt that will happen.

My parents have their funeral paid for, their plot & headstone also paid for. Redd knows where the paperwork is.

Now, if only I were that organized. I did actually write down all of our account numbers, passwords and how I pay the bills, so if something happens to me, Redd should be able to pick right up.

I hope things get easier for you with all of this.

BevB said...

Excellent advice.
When my husband died two years ago I found out how overwhelming the process can be. In addition to the unspeakable sorrow, you're up to your ears in red tape and a To Do List longer than your arm.

The best inheritance you can give your family is to have a plan, with all the T's crossed and I's dotted.

Vee said...

That is excellent advice. I am sorry that it is needed, but very true that family members can get so testy with one another. We were able to get a will that won't have to go to probate court for both my mother and grandmother. Still, I will keep my prayers up and my fingers crossed.