Emotions will probably run high during estate settlement. Stopping to think — and setting goals — can help you make the most of any inheritance. Here's the main problem with doing a "regular" series of pieces about estate settlement: Nothing is regular.
You have fits of activity — documents sent by registered mail, conference calls — and long slogs of waiting.
We're in that state now. We've read the will. We've started to receive documents describing the assets in Dad's will and trust. We've also started receiving regularly updated time lines of milestones and deadlines.
Big life experiences: If you haven't been through them, I wrote earlier, then images from movies and TV will shape your expectations and may leave you confused. No, you (or your partner) won't give birth on an elevator or in the backseat of Brooklyn taxi accompanied by a witty but kindhearted cabbie.
And, chances are, in estate settlement, you won't experience scenes like the two pop-culture references that came to my mind in younger years:
- Jane Eyre (or anyone in pretty much any novel or movie ever) surprised by a long-lost relative leaving her a fortune.
We all face times when we suddenly, necessarily have to become experts on a topic we'd previously given little consideration. Some, like pregnancy, accompany positive changes in our lives. Others, like dealing with funeral planning and estate issues, are entirely the opposite. Yet, there's a pretty good chance you'll have to deal with these issues eventually, one way or another.
I want to share what I'm learning as my family deals with estate issues — wills and trusts — to give you a preview of what to expect. I'll add the usual disclaimer on a piece like this: I am not an estate attorney. That's kind of the point — I'm just a person, one who knows a bit about personal finance, who has gotten thrown into the estate-settling process and has found myself frequently surprised and confounded.
My Dad's Passing
My father died in March in Florida. He lived to be 79, an impressive accomplishment after surviving lung cancer 30 years earlier. In some ways, his passing was slow — although he survived cancer and avoided recurrences, he had lingering health issues that made him more reliant on oxygen tanks in the last years of his life. Still, he was surprised by the news in early March that he was terminal.