Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Part One: A week of clearing out my Mom's house and dealing with her estate

I think it was a gift that we needed to go through my Mom's house so soon after her death because of the short real estate season in northern New England. For me, having less time to think about it was best.
I was also very fortunate that my brother and sister-in-law had already taken care of some things. My Mom was in the hospital or a skilled nursing facility for two months before she died so they had removed perishable items and done laundry as well as other things. After she died my brother also had cancelled credit cards, phone and cable service, arranged her burial, etc. We had split the job of notifying family and friends.
My Mom as a toddler in the early 1920s
We also had the gift of our parents having put their home and all assets into a trust with us as co-trustees which means we do not have to deal with probate.
Mom with her brother
So what did we do in 7 days? We buried our Mom and arranged for carving of the headstone she shares with our Dad and for a gravestone. We dealt with the paperwork to change bank and investment accounts to our names only. We made phone calls about other accounts and services and returned her cable TV box. We interviewed and selected a realtor. We visited and made a memorial donation to her local library (more about that in Part 3). We visited our sole surviving aunt and one of our cousins and Mom's best friend. We drank quite a bit of wine and went to King Arthur Bakery for pastries and coffee at least four times. We talked more than we had in decades as we had more time to do so than living in different parts of the country has made that difficult.

We also prepared her house for sale and removed all personal items as well as most of the things that we wanted to keep. We packed my car with the things I was bringing home (more about that in Part 4), moved items to my brother's home and left some things in storage at my brother's home so that we can go through them together during a later visit. We went into it with a plan and goals for what we needed to get done and how we would all work at it together (more on that in Part Two).

Mom's engagement picture
Mom & Dad on their wedding day in 1945
 What we didn't do was argue or fight about who gets what. It is a true gift that my brother, sister-in-law, husband, children and nephews all get along and have had no disagreements about how to proceed. Our Mom and Dad said numerous times that they knew we would be like that when the time came. They would be so happy to know that they were right.

My Mom and Dad in 2007 when they were both in their mid 80s and still well
 My Mom was in so much pain the last few months of her life and facing worse pain if she had lived so it is a blessing that she isn't suffering anymore. I miss her and my Dad terribly.


  1. This is going to be very interesting to read. I have executed three estates--none were a parent's, but that is coming one day. When I was doing my uncle's estate in 1993 I read an article that said "You spend your life building your family; don't let your estate/will/whatever tear it apart!" Sounds like your folks did it right. I know when the time comes, my brother and I will be fine. He's a quadriplegic so we'll need physical help, but we'll be fine. (And we don't have a house to sell. That's huge!)

    1. Wow, you had to do it 3 times? I can't even imagine and we don't have to do most of what that involves.

  2. Oh what thoughtful people you are to have had the trust in place! It was good to hear about the cooperation you experienced, since it isn't the norm. Perhaps it's good just to miss them and not feel hostile toward anyone.

    The photos are beautiful.

    1. It is great that we are cooperating and it is bringing my brother and I closer which I realize isn't the norm - or so we hear.

  3. I had to empty my mother in laws house and my mothers house by myself. It is so so hard. Good luck to you and your siblings.

    1. I would hate to have to do this by myself and think I would go so far as to hire someone to help if that were the case. My heart goes out to you for having to have gone through that.