Life is always throwing curve balls. Summer of 2021 threw the biggest one I have yet to experience. When dad passed away, my siblings and I didn’t have the slightest idea of what we would have to deal with. We thought that we would bring my dad’s will to a lawyer and everything would magically work itself out. Nobody prepares you for the list of legalities that have to get done while you are trying to grieve. I felt like I had to put myself on auto pilot so that we could get everything settled. Only then, could I allow myself to grieve and unpack the trauma associated with his passing.
The one thing that I did find is that information is not easily available on how to deal on how to handle certain things. Below are 4 things that I wish I would have known from the beginning. I know every situation is different, but it doesn’t hurt to ask or inquire on behalf of your family.
- Bring your loved one’s Social Security card to the funeral home when you go to make arrangements. Take it from me, double check all info! We didn’t realize that my dad went back in after mom passed and made changes on his information. He mixed up a number on his SSN and we didn’t catch the mistake until the death certificate was in. We had to send it back to be ammended and it took almost 5 months to get it back. And you need that death certificate in hand for so many things!
- Inquire what is needed in your state in regards to opening an “Estate” account. In short, you cannot cash a deceased person’s checks into a regular checking account. Once they pass, every check must be deposited into an estate account. This is one thing that we thought that we did not need to do, but we underestimated how many account cancellations would have some type of reimbursement (home owners insurance, car insurance, credit card credits). You can ask your bank what they require. Either the bank or your lawyer can direct you to the paperwork and documents that are needed to open one.
- As the bills roll in, call each provider and ask for the probate department. Let them know that your loved one has passed and that you need to close the account and find out what the estate will be responsible for. Sometimes, the debt can be reduced or written off. Some may tell you to disregard the bill, others may need to audit the account and send you a statement with the findings. This was probably the most valuable information that we recieved. However, plan to be on the phone for a while. I think at one point during this process, I spent 10-15 hours on phonecalls one week.
- Just because your parents have a will, doesn’t mean that settling things will be easy. My parents worked for years to make sure that their affairs were in order and that my siblings and I would be able to settle things easily. Let me tell you, it was the furthest thing from easy! AND that was with my siblings and I being amicable and just trying to settle things according to my parents wishes. Be prepared to hurry up and wait.
Every persons journey is different and this post in no way replaces legal or professional guidance. These are just some basic things that we learned going through settling my parents estate and found helpful. This journey is hard, really dang hard, no matter which way you go about it. A friend of mine said it best, “I feel so bad for how I treated my friends after they lost their parents. I didn’t know how hard this process was, I should have been there for them, more.”
This “after” is something that isn’t openly talked about. A huge part of this process is just dealing, and for however long that may be. It’s not easy, it’s the side of loss that’s not largely talked about, and it should. It’s hard. Every layer of loss is hard.