Resolved?

GF Tree

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.

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7 thoughts on “Resolved?

  1. Wanda, Sometimes the journey is more than half the battle. I like you truly hope that the process will find a way to mend fences, and cause you and your sibling a reason to look at each other a touch differently. It is clear that a will is needed, as well as an advanced directive. These documents can go so so far in helping to avoid that which your family has gone thru. This is a wonderful post, that may help one individual to better prepare, and that would be a wonderful result of these words. Please take care, Bill

  2. Great advice, Wanda! Most people don’t want to think about these issues – they just seem far-off. But as your story demonstrates, taking the time to think through these things can avoid so much cost and heartache when the time does come. I keep our kids updated in writing with my final wishes plus details of where they can locate all the financial information they would need to settle my estate. My dad had this information written out for me and it was so helpful when he died.

    Thank you for writing such an honest and helpful post.

  3. Wanda, you cannot know how much this has struck a chord with me today – for finally today, almost a year after my Mum’s death, my father has seen a solicitor about making his will for he has, since that event, been intestate. It has been a huge anxiety for us, for many different reasons, and it has been a long journey to this point – though nowhere near as long your family’s own. Thank-you for sharing your experience with us, and I am moved by your honesty and willingness to share the importance of all this with us. Thank-you so much for linking up again this month, and I wish for you and your family a peaceful resolution to it all …

  4. Gosh, what a difficult and lengthy process this has been for you. Love your advice about personal belongings – I think our family has the ‘big’ stuff down in a will but not the belongings – and you’re right, these are usually the things that are most meaningful. I really hope that you and your family find amicable closure on this.

  5. Wanda, this sounds like a difficult and probably painful experience for all concerned. My father had set up a living trust years before his final illness, so it was easy to ensure his wishes were carried out when the time came, and there were no hard feelings on anyone’s part. I like that mediator’s suggestion of a separate list regarding personal belongings. Each of my children only wants a couple of things as keepsakes (fortunately not the same ones) but still, it would be good to have that in writing. I hope the rest of the process goes more smoothly for your family.

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