14 July 2011

My mom's estate

While I was at work the other day a letter came for me that needed my signature. I couldn't imagine who would send me anything by registered mail or courier that needs a signature, and then I remembered. My mom's estate. We had been waiting for her pension plan to pay out and had to hire a lawyer to do it and I was hoping this would be the cheque. It wasn't. Instead it was only the paperwork saying that my younger sister is indeed the executor and the papers will be filed at the courthouse soon.

My mom didn't have a huge estate to settle. She didn't own any property, no vehicle, no investments of any kind. It was just a matter of cleaning out her apartment, closing all her accounts with cable services and stuff, collecting the life insurance, notifying creditors, closing her bank accounts and collecting the pension. Not a lot, really.

When my mom died the police officers that visited my home told me that I was the one named to be in charge, so I took charge. I assembled my mom's bills and checked her bank account for direct deposits and withdrawls. I counted all the cash left in her apartment (she had separated amounts into labelled baggies like Gail Vaz-Oxlade suggests, it was cool and sad at the same time). My mom didn't have any friends that I could find listed anywhere so no notifications there, but I did write up and place the notice in the paper. I talked to the funeral home and arranged cremation and disposal options for her cremains.

With every step I took I talked to my sisters because they wanted to stay in the loop. I completely understood and had no problem relating information to them, until I noticed my older sister questioning every decision I made. It got to the point that every time I suggested anything I was immediately shot down by her. Everything I said, literally - I was keeping track after a while - was opposed by her. Needlessly, I might add. Many decisions don't require approval from anybody, credits are owed and sought after. Why argue? Does it matter if the bank closes her account or if it's just cleaned out by the three of us and left to unclaimed account limbo? Who cares if I shredded tax returns from the '80s? She didn't trust me at all with anything and it was just too much after a while. I seriously started to think she was going to take legal action against me because she didn't think I was handling the estate properly.

Well, I'd had enough. My mom's pension refused to pay out without a legal notice filed by the court system. We hired a lawyer to see if she could get them to pay out and they still refused. Now we have to pay something like $3000 to get the notice filed by the court to collect a measly $22,000 pension. Once the lawyer's appointment was made I decided that I was going to give up handling my mom's estate. The police led me to believe I was named as the one in charge and that turned out to be false. My name simply appeared on the list of contacts at the top. I couldn't handle one more minute of my sisters disapproval and condensation so I told both sisters that I would hand over the details to someone else.

Both were surprised - I hadn't breathed word to them of the huge stress associated with the estate. And why would I? I was raised to be quiet and take my lumps, agree with everything so I don't rock the boat. Once we involved the lawyer I figured she could tie up the remaining loose ends - pension, bank account and taxes. Instead my younger sister took it on, even though it clearly stressed her out as well. At the lawyer's appointment I watched my older sister manipulate and bully my younger sister, telling her what to do and how to do it. All the while glaring at me, disagreeing with me, and putting me down at every available opportunity. Just for my own sanity I reminded my younger sister that the lawyer could handle the rest if it was too much for her. I believe she has the strength to do it but I don't want her to have to argue like I did with our sister. Ultimately, she decided to continue and now she's executor.

Hopefully the courts will get the notice filed sooner rather than later. Then the lawyer can take it to the pension people and they will pay out so we can get our share (minus the fees, of course). Then my sister can close the bank account and pay us each our third after paying whatever taxes are owed. Then it can be done forever.

My mom didn't name an executor in her will, presumably because she didn't trust any of us to properly handle her estate. Or maybe she did it on purpose, knowing our personalities and how we'd fight with each other. She was always trying to drive wedges between us while she was alive, why not one more time? Thanks mom. I know that for my will I'll name an executor but it sure as hell won't be a family member. I've learned it should be a more impartial third party in order to not get sucked in by petty crap that pops up. Yeah, I'm still bitter about it all. More because of the way I reacted to my older sister's attitudes, behaviours and comments. Thankfully, I'm working on it, one bit at a time.

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