Saturday, November 3, 2012

Death in America (Part IV)

It has been four months since I wrote Death in America (Part III). It has been almost eight months since my mother in law died. Still the process rolls on. At the time of my mother in law’s death, our attorney assured me that managing my mother in laws affairs would be a part time job for the next six months. He wasn’t kidding.

The last time I talked our attorney, most of the heavy lifting was finished. He said, “Wait until the end of the year to execute the will in case anything else turns up.” The only loose ends that I can identify are one outstanding ambulance bill, actually the last ambulance bill and one small IRA. The insurance company isn’t certain that ambulance ride constitutes an emergency. Let’s see. An 86 year old woman is simultaneously suffering from heart failure, kidney failure, and pulmonary failure. Six days later she is dead. Not an emergency? The one little IRA was purchased years ago at the neighborhood bank. The bank was ultimately eaten up by one of the big four banks. The big four bank moved the IRA from the branch in Georgia to a central location in South Dakota. They are unsure of my wife’s status as beneficiary or executor. In their infinite wisdom they have decided my wife is not sole beneficiary but as sole surviving child she obtains sole beneficiary status, meaning the money is not part of the estate. My accountant’s reaction is, “Huh???” After filling out four separate forms, we still haven’t seen any money.

There is one more problem. This week my mother in law received a tax bill for money my wife inherited as sole beneficiary from a wretched annuity company that will remain nameless. After wrestling all those annuity issues to the ground, you don’t want to hear my opinion of annuities or the people who sell them. My mother in law’s accountant is somewhat surprised by this as he personally informed the IRS of my mother in law’s death and a tax ID has been issued for my mother in law’s estate. Now my accountant and my mother in law’s accountant need to sort out this mess.

In the middle of all this our attorney died. He was an elderly gentleman (and I do mean gentleman). He was a friend of the family, attended the same church as my wife’s family, and served as the family attorney for probably decades. He will be missed. We were informed of his passing by my mother in law’s accountant. Since he wasn’t part of a practice, I assume he was he was relieving the boredom of retirement by working part time as a favor to old friends. I called up the Probate Court in Georgia. They were aware of his death. They suggested that we go ahead and execute the instructions of the will. Once the terms of the will have been executed and the estate taxes paid, we can fill out the form that petitions the court to close down the estate. We were told that does not require an attorney.

Of course there is still a large storage unit in Atlanta filled with my mother in law’s possessions. I think I could empty out that unit in a week. Four piles of stuff; sell it; take it to our new home once we move; give it away; throw it away. I think with my wife’s help this will be at least a one month job. I don’t think I can stand more than a week at time. It isn’t important or urgent. My wife inherits all of my mother in law’s physical stuff. The storage unit rents for $188 a month. We can take our time with that problem.

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