We Boomers are going to inherit and be in charge of our parents’ estates, and we have no clue what to do or how to do it. Perhaps my experience and attempts at doing the right thing may help you sidestep some fumbles I’ve made and make you feel relatively informed about the process as we go along.
Caveat: This is ONLY my experience. I am not a lawyer. I am not giving advice. I am sharing my experience. Do not rely on this information to make decisions of your own. Take it for what it’s worth.
Mother died on April 6, early in the morning with my brother holding her hand. It was peaceful and just the way it should have been.
Mother had advised me that I was to administer her estate and that everything was in a trust account. I also held a Durable Power of Attorney. She was a very precise, but very private person. She did not disclose anything about fiances except that there were various accounts and “You will have everything you need when the time comes.” I had no idea what that meant.
Except that I was in banking for a few years and worried about accounts being frozen, so I called Mother’s attorney, informed her of the death, and asked about accounts. She said there were three accounts, two were in the trust and the one that wasn’t I was a signer on. Fair enough.
I ran to the bank and closed the account that had me as a signer (turns out I was a joint owner of the account – there is a difference between being just a signatory and a co-owner of the account. Who knew?). I opened up a new account in my name only and transferred the funds over to it. I had every right to do that as a co-owner.
Did you know that banks don’t automatically order checks for you? I havn’t opened up a new account in so long, I just keep reordering checks when I run out. Nope. You do it when you get home. At least this bank handled it that way – I discovered that after I realized we hadn’t gone through the process. I have three checks that came with the new account kit.
Now, you’d think…
I discovered the other two accounts were, um, different. One was a savings account that had checks attached to it – she used it to pay larger bills and in the instructions I received she said to use that account to pay larger bills other than normal household expenses. I used that checkbook to pay for the two nights at assisted living facility before she died.
But she had closed that account – I discovered that when I ran to the bank. So the two checks bounced. It had been closed last fall but she had not updated the notes she left.
So the one account left was actually in the trust. But I can’t touch it yet, even though I have the Power of Attorney and am the successor Trustee. Stay tuned.