Today’s post is more like a public service announcement because we didn’t know six months ago what we know now. You may be in the same boat. Six months ago my mother-in-law passed away suddenly. When I got the news by phone, my first phone call was to one of my bridesmaids of life in my Emmaus Reunion Group because we knew we’d need to be covered in prayers. The next two phone calls were to our adult children. But the fourth phone call was to my pastor and boss with a cry from a place of utter grief and despair, “What do we do now?”
At 55 years old, we are the first of our peers to lose both parents AND be responsible for everything. These are a few things we have learned along the way:
- Get a will – Kay had her will and my father-in-law’s will along with their passports, social security cards, birth certificates, and other important papers in a safe-deposit which my husband had a key for. We went to the box the day after she passed. All important papers like car titles, home closing documents and tax returns were also in one place. She had a clear filing system. She set this up years ago. Don’t put it off. The will has protected us, guided us, directed us, and made clear much of what we needed to do next.
- Have personal and professional relationships – with an attorney, a pastor, and accountant/CPA, contractors, realtors, etc. We are so grateful for the wisdom and expertise of those we had built relationships with through our local church.
- Beneficiaries trump wills – If the will is specific to what happens next with limitations and directions, yet only names are listed as beneficiaries of investments and assets, the limits and directions within the will do not apply.
- Have an Emergency Fund – There will be many expenses that will need to be covered way before any paperwork can be completed at the courthouse: funeral expenses (including special wishes by family members), monthly utilities, monthly mortgages, lawn services, house cleaning supplies, groceries, paper products, clothes, traveling expenses, home repairs, and a whole lot more. Reimbursements take a long time…right now, more than six months.
- Have a list of accounts and passwords and update the list often – Kay did nothing online which made the paper trail easy to follow. Over the course of 45 days, every utility, investment, bank statement, and QVC order came through the mail. We, of course, do everything online. Passwords, account numbers, vendor and utility lists should be on paper and stored in some way so to be easily located. How will anybody be able to settle your affairs and gain access to your parent’s or your assets and liabilities if nothing comes through the mail?
- Be gracious, no matter what people and family do and say – Everybody has questions. Everybody has opinions. Everybody grieves differently. Everybody has a different perspective. Everybody remembers a past conversation. Prayer and wise counsel are imperative.
- Talk through the process with your adult kids – This has been a learning experience for all of us. Clear communication with our young adult children throughout this process has equipped them and their spouses to know what to do and what to expect when our time comes. We had wills prepared when they were minors, but as adults, new wills and this learning is our responsibility to impart as part of their financial training.
The grief has been intense. The responsibility has been heavy. Ministry with families happen all throughout remarkable moments of a family’s life. When we learn new things, we figure out a way to teach them. This is one area where I now have experience. It helps the healing to pour out our lessons as a drink offering unto the Lord.
What will you do now?
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” Titus 3:1-2