17 June 2016

Facing Mortality: two years on

This is the month of the 2nd anniversary of the death of my housemate's mother.

We miss her.

The responsiblities of dealing with her estate have diminished over the past year. All the outstanding bills have been paid and accounts either closed or transferred. Our housemates goal is to close probate this year and decide if keeping her mother's house is feasible or if the on-going expense of maintaining it will be too much of a drain on both her finances and her time.

It has been very helpful for her to have had the extra time that the house being fully paid for allowed, because, while the house is small, it was very full. There is still a fair amount of things to deal with, but is basically livable now and with a big push could be cleared and staged if our housemate found she really needed to sell the property.  Our housemate celebrated this milestone by going over for a visit and using the house as a base for taking a mini-vacation for the first time since it passed into her responsiblity.

At our own house, we are down to just a few boxes of mementos that our housemate is collecting to give to her family. The junk mail diminished for a time but has seen an alarming uptick in a new variation on our housemate's mother's name through the political mailings. If we had things to do over again, I don't think we would have changed her address to ours. It would have been helpful and worth the cost to set up a post office or private mail box that could be closed when probate ended.

In my own estate planning life, I have taken the opportunity that seeing probate in action has given me and I have done the following:

  • Filled out nearly all of Eric Dewey's The Big Book of Everything
  • Installed a password vault application on my computers for a year and used it to collect information on all of the account logins that I have (a lot more than I thought). Giving myself a year to do this meant that even accounts I only use rarely got documented. I then printed out that list and put it in my estate binder
  • Updated our household address database and printed a copy for the book
  • Made a plan for updating my will. At this point I am going to wait to actually update the will until after my son turns 18. That will happen this year and will remove the need for our wills to included a guardian for him.

My next steps are:

  • Follow up on making a new will after my son becomes a legal adult
  • Review the Big Book on an annual basis and keep it up to date
  • Once I have a new will and a list of personal representatives and/or trustees give them the information on where to find our estate documents.

I would strongly encourage everyone to take time to create and update an estate plan-- and most importantly communicate that plan to the people who, either by your will or the laws of your state will be tasked with dealing with your estate.

The great thing is that once you have everything set up and organized, maintaining your documents and updating them as needed is much easier than the original work to get it all set up.

We think of our housemate's mom constantly and we miss her vibrant presence, but she really does live on in her daughter and in all of the lives that she touched.

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