Dad leaves directions

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 1, 2005

When a loved one dies it is an overwhelming event.

If you are the one who has to take care of the estate it can be an extra load on top of grief.

When my father died, I was, like most people, in shock. My mother had died many years before so, naturally, my father was my last surviving parent.

I was an only child so it was up to me to make all the funeral arrangements and put my father to rest. After that I had the home, the furniture and personal belongings to take care of. Beyond that was taking care of finances. While I had support from my children and my cousin Wayne, who was raised as a brother, I still had to make the final decisions.

My father had left instructions with me on many things he wanted me to do at his death. He had also given me some account numbers. Other than that I didn't know where to start. But as I began to go through things, I found that he had taken care of as much as he could to help me.

He had a crate like you buy at Wal-Mart. In it, he had labeled files that held all the papers and information he felt I would need; life insurance policies, social security information, stocks, savings, birth certificate, navy discharge papers, marriage certificate, titles, deeds, all my mother's papers n you get the idea. On a table in the dining room, I found his bank statements for several years. On the refrigerator in the kitchen was his will and my address to contact if something happened to him. The bank account number he gave me contained enough money to pay for all the things I needed to do.

All of this was invaluable. I could look through his bank statements to see if he had any bills he was paying on a monthly basis. I could call Social Security and the company he retired from to inform them of his passing. I could contact the utility companies and the Oil Company to check if any bills were outstanding. I had his birth certificate and navy discharge for the funeral home. I also knew how to get the insurance money to pay for the funeral.

I had his will without searching or looking for the lawyer. When I took it to be probated, the clerk helped me immeasurably by telling me what my next steps should be.

Even when the loved one has done as much as they can to help you, it is a difficult thing. You are still dealing with their loss and every day you are reminded that they are gone because you are doing the business needed when someone dies. I will forever be grateful for Wayne who stuck by my side every step of the way. For my children who did everything they could to help me and lend their support (and muscle work). For my daughter-in-law who came to my dad's, cleaned house, hugged and encouraged me. For Wayne's wife who came to the house to bring food and loaded up her van to help me carry many things home.

You sometimes think it is for older people to take care of these things, but you never know when your time will come. I have heard horror tales of people left with no hint of what the person had or even what bills they owed. The state could end up with most of your assets if you don't leave some information as to what you have. I have started a file in my dad's crate that should let my children know what I have and who they need to contact in case of my death. I am not finished with all the things I need to do, but I am working on it. Please do the same for your loved ones.