For me, this month’s moment came when I realized that our family might, finally, come to closure about the details of our sibling’s estate. For now, I’m focusing on the little bits of sunshine and clear sky that are just barely visible in the accompanying image. I’m hopeful this will be our family’s eventual destination—that at some point in the future each of us will be able to move beyond our current difficulties to a place where each of us can appreciate the personalities and talents that each of us bring to our family mix. Let me tell you about it:
I spent a good part of last week in the company of my siblings as we attempted to sort out our own differences as well as conflicts with the court-appointed personal representative and her attorney regarding our deceased sibling’s estate. I won’t bore you with the details except to say that, at nearly two years, this has been going on for far too long.
Ours is a large family (10 siblings, now minus 1) with a big gap in ages (more than 26 years) between the youngest and oldest of us. Some of us remained in the family’s hometown; others, like me, moved away as young adults, returning for only occasional visits. Different experiences and lifestyles led to different expectations—some call themselves Christian, others could care less; some are fighters, others not so much…I could go on and on with comparisons and contrasts, but I’m sure you get the idea.
We ended up in court-ordered mediation because we were unable to reach agreement within the family and/or with the court-appointed experts (the attorney and personal representative). The long and short of all this is that we ended up paying off the attorney and personal representative for services to date and one of our siblings will, based on the mediated agreement, be appointed the personal representative to conclude the estate. After all this, I am hopeful that the remainder of our sibling’s estate will be settled as quickly as possible.
So, I ask…do you have a will? Our family is in this situation because our sister died without a will. She was young—only 57 years old when she died—but her medical history should have warned her of a possible early death. That said, none of us can be sure of our tenure on this earth—who among us knows when they might be hit with the proverbial bus?
As I’m sure you realize, a will is the essential tool for ensuring that your wishes for the distribution of your financial assets are honored. Beyond the financial implications of your estate, have you considered your personal belongings and who, among your heirs, might most appreciate each one? My personal experience, in my sibling’s situation as well as my parents’ estate, is that the non-financial assets are often the most meaningful and most contested.
At some point in the day-long mediation of our sibling’s estate, the mediator suggested that persons/couples maintain a separate listing of his/her decisions regarding personal items (so the will doesn’t have to be amended for every item). Though some of the person’s heirs might be disappointed with the decedent’s decisions, most will be reluctant to argue with the wishes of their deceased loved one, and, in the end, such decisions will almost certainly save a lot of grief among surviving family members. Recording your wishes regarding family heirlooms and personal belongings could very well be the best gift you ever give your heirs.
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Shared for Alexa’s “Simply A Moment,” a mid-month opportunity to describe a moment—a minute or two or ten—of life. Feel free to join in, sharing whatever and however you like—a few words as I’ve done, a photo or two, a collage, or a scrapbook page.