My father is passing away and probably won’t last the summer. When he goes Mom will be a mess and most of the arrangements will fall to me. I have never had to deal with this type of thing and would like some advice on what arrangements need to be made. Emotionally I have accepted his passing - it has been a long painful death and I believe his passing will be a blessing to him, so I am not looking for advice on how to cope. What I am asking advice on is - what things do I need to remember to do?
First, my sympathies to you and your family, Khadaji.
I’d advise you start to make a series of lists. One should be those family members and/or friends of the family who should be notified of your father’s death. Another should be arrangements for a funeral or remembrance service (or not, as the case may be, depending on your family’s beliefs), and leave a list of requirements with a funeral director now. You may not be in a position to make arrangements with a clear head later, what with your own thoughts and coping with your family’s reactions.
Where there is a will, notify the lawyers/executors concerned. Another list should be items of your father’s assets, such as bank accounts, investments, property, etc. which the lawyer/executor should know about in order to sort out the estate and carry out your father’s wishes.
Contact the funeral home you will be using and your minister. Both have been through it a number of times and will probably have lists explaining what needs to be done. Also they can act as a kind of check and balance on one another. Friends also understand tend to understand what you are going through and one or two will step forward. Avail yourself of their assistance.
And you might be surprised at how well your mother deals with it. When my father died, I kept expecting my mother to fall apart. Instead she lost herself in the necessities of the situation. It was excellent therapy.
You might also check with his bank and his lawyer for the financial and legal aspects of your father’s life. If your father was a veteran or a member of any fraternal, social or service organization, you will want to contact them. There are often special services they feel they need to perform.
When my father died he had everything in incredible order so we had to do surprising little on all. As a matter of fact he dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” so well, when my mother died nine years later I was still operating on his organization.
One more thing - many people will offer to help in some way. Try to find something for them to do. It will help them deal with your father’s passing.
I think I speak for the board when I say we all mourn you loss.
I was in your exact situation a little more than a year ago.
The advice of the two previous posters is right on target.
Fortunately, ALL the organizations you may need to deal with (insurance companies, Social Security, the Veterans’ Administration, the funeral parlor, the house of worship, the banks, the fraternal organizations, the hospital, the IRS, even the DMV) go through this every day and are very equipped to walk you through everything you need to do when the time comes. Most of it is very simple and easy.
If you can bear it emotionally, you may want to shop around a little for funeral arrangements, though. My dad’s death was unexpected so we basically walked into the local funeral parlor, picked from their menu of services, wrote a check and walked out. We only had a day or so to get it done, so there was no camparison shopping or “sleeping it over.”
If you’re situation is anything like mine, the real work will not come when your dad passes away, because all the assests will probably go to your mom. It’s when mom goes that the trouble starts. (I’ve got 2 siblings and it ain’t easy to split a house three ways, especially when one of the siblings is still living there.) That’s why we’ve got plans to meet with an estate lawyer real soon.
One thing to keep in mind is that it sometimes takes a long time to settle an estate - even if the will seems very simple. So he may want to give some of his possessions to your mother (or other friends and family) now. For instance, if he owns the car your mother uses, she may not be allowed to drive it once it becomes the property of his estate.
Also… ask him if he wants to be an organ donor. Don’t assume that because he is old or ill that all his organs are useless. I knew someone who was very ill but was still able to give his corneas.
By the way, Khadji… I think it’s great that you feel you have come to a sort of emotional acceptance, but don’t be surprised if you feel like you’ve been hit by a ton of bricks when he actually dies.
Imagining and planning for the inevitable death of a loved one is not quite the same as actually going through it. It is certainly a little bit easier when you’ve had time to see it coming and prepare yourself, but it still hurts like hell when they do.
Suzy was talking on PBS that if there is a house involved & it goes through probate,
that it takes two years to transfer & costs $10,200 (or some other set charge, but
the captions on the program might be off a bit). If you can’t pay this, then they sell the
house to pay for it. On the other hand, if you get a Living Trust, which a lawyer might
charge $500 to $3000 to setup, the house gets transfered in two weeks instead of two days.
That is just from a tv program, so don’t assume it’s correct for your state, Im just posting
it for the general idea. Nolo.com might have some great books on this.
Get at least 10 copies of the death certificate. Everybody and their brother seem to need a copy of it. Both my parents names were on everything they owned, but when my mom died, little clerical errors began presenting themselves. Also, take a few minutes to decide what newspapers to put the notice in, especially if your dad was from somewhere else at one time.
A previous poster said that the funeral preparation and aftermath were theraputic for his mom. I agree. Not everything needs to be done ahead of time. You and your mom might be glad to have some stuff to do after the funeral.
Finally, my mom (in her final act of kindness) donated her body to the Anatomical Gift Society, which uses cadavers to train doctors. There is a huge shortage of these. Mom died in June and we got her ashes back in December.
When my father died we were amazed by the number of accounts, insurance policies, etc. that he had.
Start making a list of everyone who has his name in a business setting. As much as you can, close charge accounts in his name, consolidate bank accounts, etc. Be especially careful to make sure that any stocks, mutual funds, etc. he owns pass directly to your mother or are automatically sold with the proceeds going to her.
My father had insurance policies dating back to World War II – I know he had forgotten about at least one of them. That turned out to be the tricky one, because he hadn’t updated any of the beneficiaries and everyone he had listed had already died. That took months to straighten out, and required the services of a lawyer.
If you don’t have a family lawyer already, get someone who you’re sure you trust.
All the advice so far has been excellent. I also recommend that you try to get the rest of the family on the same page as you. When my grandfather was dying it was understood by everyone that he was not to be resusitated nor were heroic measures to be taken to prolong his life. This allowed us to present a united front to the hospital staff who wished to bother him with needless tests and proceedures. He had already expressed his funeral wishes before hand and we followed them to the letter. His estate was simply divided between his two children, no fighting involved. Communication with family members is very important or else someone will feel left out. Get a consensus on everything you do.
The death of a parent or grandparent is a traumatic experience but it can also be an enriching one. I know my family was stronger for having gone through the experience.
I would be exceedingly careful before following this advice. I would consult an experienced estate lawyer in your locality before entering into any type of trust agreement. Probate procedures vary significantly by state, and putting assets in a living trust (also known as an inter vivos trust) may complicate things rather than simplify things.
I agree. My father died without a will in January, and there were none of these costs that “Suzy” spoke of. His house is sold, the estate lawyer drew up the sales contract between us children and Dad’s neighbor, and the money is sitting in a protect account until September (pending any claims coming in against his estate in the meantime). Very low cost.
First, talk with your Mom – I hope you’re not simply assuming that things will fall to you to resolve, actually (legally) they will fall on HER (if you live in the US), and what you should do is offer any help she wants. She may WANT you to do everything, but she may not. You don’t say whether he has written a will or who will be the executor of his estate. In absense of a will stating otherwise, it will be her job.
So a little more info would be useful. Do you live in the US? Is there a will, and if not is he still capable of making one? Are you an only child, or do you have some siblings who can help? The other question I have is the limits of the scope of your question. Are you concerned now only with funeral arrangements, or longer-term issues like liquidating his estate?
If the former, here is what my experience tells me. Put yourself into the hands of a good funeral director for most details. One will sit down with you and go through your options. And if you can handle it emotionally, there’s no reason not to talk to one now, while you have the emotional stability to judge whether the arrangements are suitable, and the time to look for alternatives. My dad died unexpectedly and alone, and all we knew was the funeral home dad had chosen for mom years before, so we went with it and it worked out well. They made it relatively simple.
The worst emotional stress is notifying the family, and his friends. EVERY phone call is at least a half-hour of condolences and reminiscing, and in my family quite a LOT of calls to make. So if you can, try to divide up these calls among a few people. And let the people you call know who else you are calling, and either ask them for additional names, or ask them to make some calls for you.
Especially, PLEASE do not hesitate to ask your friends, family or coworkers for help if you need it; and more especially if they OFFER help that is not an actual hindrance - accept it. You will both feel very good about it.
And OUR (my two sisters and I) biggest worrying question was, “Who DIDN’T we call that we SHOULD have”? In our case, dad had been on a semi-pro sports Irish sports team in Chicago 50 years ago. One of my dad’s old teammates found out he’d died through my uncle, and called me with the suggestion that my dad’s funeral arrangements be broadcast over a local Irish format radio station, because a lot of the old folks listened to it. I took his advice, and it was THE best thing we did. MANY people showed up who none of us kids ever heard of, and many of THEM knew each other from 50 years ago or more. We had a picture of my dad with his team from 1956, and several people in the picture showed up, and had a wonderful small reunion. And we learned stories about him we had never heard, and never WOULD have but for getting the word out. People showed up who knew him in Ireland, before he emigrated in 1948. I was completely astounded.
Sorry I’ve kind of trailed off, I’m still adjusting to his death even now.
But IMO, don’t worry much about the details of the funeral, there are professionals who will help. Think about how to get in touch with the people in HIS life, outside your immediate family. Your father might be reluctant to provide a lsit even if he’s able. He may not want to “burden” old friends with news of his death, and he may not even remember some people who remember him very well. Think about collecting some nice pictures to display from earlier, happier times.
As far as longer term issues, that’s going to be so dependent on where you live I’m not even going to go there now.
Estates and Trusts not my area of specialty. I know enough about it to know that I should refer people with estate issues to other lawyers so I don’t really screw them up.
If trusts are not properly set up, there are potentially serious federal and state estate and gift tax consequenses. Transferring assets during life to another person, either in trust or outright, can result in the immediate imposition of gift taxes, which might have been deferred or minimized if the transfer occurs through probate. Also, tax basis of assets owned at the time of death are increased to the date of death value, so that a lifetime gift of appreciated assets might subject the recipient to capital gains taxes that could have been avoided.
The above will be significantly changed by the federal “phase out” of estate taxes between now and 2010, and their immediate return the following year, and further changed when Congress reacts to the untenable mess they’ve gotten themselves into.
In addition, although avoiding probate may be beneficial in many states, here in New York, for instance, probate is generally not too difficult or expensive.
For some additional insights on the risks of disposing of your assets during lifetime, see W. Shakespeare, King Lear. (A friend of mine had a case where she was representing an elderly man almost exactly in Lear’s position with regard to a family business to which he had assigned control to some of his children).