Pray that you are never left as the executor of a person’s estate, especially if that person was unorganized and left entanglements.
Women are usually left to manage the estate of their husbands. It has been written about and TV shows have depicted women as hapless and helpless in this position. It shows how women need to take an active part in the process of preparing for death.
It doesn’t matter if the death is your own, your husband’s, your partner’s, your parents’ or your child’s is not an easy job to manage. Death is going to happen and we never know when.
Yesterday, after many weeks of discovery, communications and aggravation I was able to bury my parents’ ashes. There wasn’t clear ownership to the cemetery plot. Plus a woman claimed that my great Aunt Alabama, gave the plot to her neighbor, who was the mother of the woman claiming ownership of the plot. If the woman had documentation from my great aunt then I would have to take it to court.
Originally, Mr. Marston, the cemetery manager told me I was going to have to get notarized letters from all in the family stating that it was okay with them for me to bury my parents and put markers on the graves. Mr. Marston then called me and said I could sign this letter he has that states that I am willing to be responsible for the plot, and any legal issues with the plot. If I signed this document then I would not have to get letters from my cousins just their verbal acknowledgement of my taking the ownership. That sounded so much easier so I called back the cousins and relayed what Mr. Marston had said. All cousins agreed and understood. Then is when Mr. Marston announced that Mrs. Johnson had made her claim in 2006. He tried to warn me, I guess by making a strong case for me to understand that I was taking on any legal issues with the cemetery plot.
This plot was purchased by my great, great grandfather back in 1851. The last person buried there was his granddaughter in 1987. My great, great Aunt Ala, was buried in 1963, so I didn’t understand how this Mrs. Johnson could stake a claim. Mr. Marston later told me that now that I have signed this document and I am the owner I should be prepared for other people to come forward to make such claims. Fortunately Mrs. Johnson didn’t have documentation stating that Alabama gave her mother the plots. What I couldn’t understand from Mrs. Johnson is why she wanted to make the claim since her mother was already buried in the same cemetery.
Today women can be more savvy and smart about helping their families deal with their illnesses that may incapacitate them and their death.
Days before my father’s accident that led to his death in 2007 we had made plans to change his estate from a will to a revocable trust. We had gone to see four different lawyers who told us, “all you need is a will.”
A will is useless until the person is declared dead and the court gives the executor a Letter of Testamentary, which can take weeks to months to get from the courthouse. In today’s world and in most states and counties a lawyer has to file these papers, especially if there is any real property involved in the estate.
It is a complicated and legal issue as each state is different. I will recommend for all adults (men and women) to read Suze Orman’s book, “Women And Money,” because she spells it out very clearly the difference between a revocable trust and a will. Also, to have a lawyer draw up the papers for a trust can cost you more than to have a will drawn up. Orman explains that the reason is this, “with a revocable trust a lawyer is not needed after your death, but with a Will after your death they are entitled to a percentage of the entire estate, so they will write a Will for $200.00 with a hope for the future revenue from probating the will.”
If you already know you want to avoid the costs and the time associated with a Will then you can get a Revocable Trust for just $13.00 then visit http://www.suzeorman.com/igsbase/igstemplate.cfm?SRC=SP&SRCN=protectionhelp_login&GnavID=95&SnavID=113
Another good thing that a revocable trust does that a will doesn’t do, it gives your trustee the ability to manage your business if you become incapacitated or unable in any way to take care of your business. I had my name on the bank account with my mother, but when she was isolated in the nursing home the bank did not willingly work with me because I was not the primary account holder. Dad was watching me struggle to get through the dealings I had to do for my mother. His watching the anguish and aggravation I was going suffering through made him understand the need for the revocable trust. Unfortunately he died before we had the revocable trust notarized and funded.
I have spent the last two years dealing with my divorced parents’ estates, and I don’t wish that job on my worst enemy. There are aspects of a person’s death that gave me the feeling it is a racket. I by passed the funeral homes and all that entails by making an anatomical donation of their bodies to the local medical school. I paid the cost of the ambulance to deliver the body to the University Medical Center and they processed the body. They annually have a memorial service for all people whose bodies were used to teach medical students. I received my parents’ ashes via the United States Post Office and yesterday paid for the hole to place their ashes in the family plot. Two years ago when Dad passed away we had a champagne brunch at his favorite restaurant and then 50 days later when Mom passed away we had a memorial Mass at St. Mary’s Church for both of them. That was the only uncomplicated part of dealing with their death.
Women have access to more information today than in the past. Women are a part of the life and death process, and we usually outlive the men in our families. Be strong and take the steps to make the death process easier for yourself and your descendants.