Thursday, February 27, 2014

In which we discover that Isabel did not leave a will

This is the part that bothers me: I am speaking ill of the dead. Yes, Isabel died a few days after I wrote the post about her being in a non-responsive state. Primo didn't get to talk to her, but he talked to the girls and we had visited them just the month before Isabel died. He is going to the memorial service next week.

Isabel did not deserve a long, painful illness that ended in death. She was not a bad person. She was, however, a disorganized one. Is it bad to talk about something that a dead person did or did not do? I wished no ill for Isabel , for her own sake and that of Primo's stepdaughters. And I would never want to hurt them.

But I want to talk about leaving a will.

It is wrong to leave an estate and not have a will. It is wrong to leave a mess for your children to clean.


Primo thinks I am nuts because I have had a will since I was 25. Maybe I am a little worst case scenario-y, but I have never been harmed by planning for the worst case scenario. I would rather be overprepared than underprepared.

The wife of a co-worker died years ago. My entire office went to the funeral. After the funeral, my boss mused that his father had shown him his will and his funeral arrangements. My boss thought it was macabre, but I thought it was one of the best things a parent could do for his adult children.

"Do you know how much stress and hassle he has saved you?" I asked.

When my former boyfriend's mother died, he was shocked to find that not only had she arranged her funeral, she had bid it out. She had purchased the plot, arranged the funeral, and left cash to pay for death certificates.

My mom has had a will for years. I have a copy of it. I am a signator on her safe-deposit box and I have a key. I am also a joint account holder on her checking and savings - if she dies, I will have immediate access to her money for funeral expenses, etc. She already has a plot - got it when my dad died.

I have watched my friends settle their parents' estates. Even with a will, it's a huge pain in the neck.

Apparently, Isabel's friends had encouraged her - repeatedly and with very strong language - to get her affairs in order. She refused. Primo says that's just how she was - if she didn't acknowledge something, it didn't exist.

I can't imagine how scary it must have been knowing you had a disease that was probably going to kill you. I can understand why she wouldn't want to do the hard things. It's hard enough to do these things without death staring at your face. But I am angry that now, Laura and Kate are going to have to go through even more work than they would otherwise have had to do to settle the estate. It's not fair to them. I wish Isabel had thought of her daughters more than she worried about her own discomfort.

PS She also would not make any decisions about her end of life care, telling the doctors that her daughters could decide. And the day after she died, the hospital called the girls to ask where they should send the body. "What do you mean?" they asked.

"Did your mom make any arrangements with a funeral home?"

Well of course she hadn't. So Laura and Kate had to scramble to find a funeral home.

Do not do this to your family. We are all going to die. It's just a matter of timing.


  1. Amen, Sister! Not having a Will is one of the most selfish things a person can do. At a time when survivors need to spend energy grieving, they have to hassle thru the court system. Mother left a Will, but had not taken care of other business. It was a nightmare - even tho she thought she had taken care of things.

    If you love your spouse, children, whomever is left ... make a Will. And, if you want to do it yourself Google Will and your state for form. Then take them to the bank and get them notarized. It makes such a difference.

    Condolences to Laura, Kate and Primo, too.

  2. About 30 years ago, when my grandparents were in their 50s, they did all the planning -- bought plots, ordered their tombstones, etc. Everyone thought they were nuts to do this when they were still young and vibrant, but it really came in handy when my grandfather died several years ago.

  3. Two years ago I went with my mother to make sure all her papers, wills, etc. were in order. It was my siblings who were in denial and kept saying that there was plenty of time to deal with this. They have no idea how much easier this has made settling her estate.
    Condolences to your family.

  4. Well said. My sister even got my mom to tell her what kind of funeral she wanted, so we didn't have to make any of those hard decisions. She wanted just her children , our spouses and her grandchildren. No friends or he surviving sisters-in-law.. We had a small service then we sat in a circle and shared Grandma Thelma stories. Afterward we went out to lunch together. A very special time.

  5. When my dad was terminal, my parents had everything that could be transferred into my mom's name done ahead of time. It lessoned the tax issues and made sure my mom could deal with everything easily when he did die.

    My mom is now in a decline and has everything set up as well. She has prepaid for her cremation and has all the paperwork set up and ready.

    I need to update my will (thanks for the reminder). I want to take my siblings out of my will entirely and leave everything to my sisters kids. I figure my siblings have had plenty of time to get their financial acts together and the kids are in their 20's and this world is an expensive place for them.

    When my dad died, we had no service or funeral at all. An invitation only wake was held at my parents house before the obit went in the paper. Kept the funeral ghouls away.

    Leaving the mess for your children to deal with was very immature and selfish of Bertha. I hope the memorial service goes as good as these things can and that the girls are doing well.

  6. I just finished signed mine, revised in light of my recent marriage. I talked about it with my husband, my children, and my siblings who have roles. My mother and father have been wholly transparent.

    I haven't thought ahead to funeral arrangements yet. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. I am not at all surprised that my reader friends are all up to date on their wills. :) I have great readers.