Journey Is Ending
As the journey with your loved one may be ending, your role as the Caregiver will take on new responsibilities - which may include making life ending decisions for them, final preparations for them, and eventually the Executor/Executrix of their estate.
Nothing is going to be able to prepare you more for what you are about to face in the upcoming weeks or months than the sum of all of your experiences while in this role as The Caregiver.
You may be here now as a seasoned Caregiver. You and your loved one have been through so much together - you've made so many difficult decisions, you've been though so many sibling battles, invested your life, and the life of your family while in this role.
You have made all of the necessary preparations and done all of the pre-planning possible for this moment in time but you are still scared of what lies ahead.
It is not going to be easy. It never is for anyone who has gone through this stage of the Journey with an Aging loved one. But you will get through it because of all of the hard work you've done over the years to prepare for it.
While you are trying to deal with grief and the loss of your loved one, now you have to put on wadding boots to start digging into all of the legal and financial stuff.
When your parent or loved one has named you or will be naming you as their Executor/Executrix speak up if you do not feel that you would be able to handle the responsibilities that come with it and suggest that someone else do it.
On the Way There
We were not prepared for this stage in our parents' lives. Our family never talked about death therefore we were very lost and unprepared for when the day came our Mother died.
When loss is on the horizon, it feels like time is running out. Things are going to happen very fast and you need to be prepared.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is going to be overwhelming, but by having a plan and being aware of what lies ahead will help make this life event a little easier.
Planning for It
Dealing with Their Stuff
Managing the Estate
Dealing with Grief
Preparing For It
Death is a part of the circle of life. As we get older, we tend to think about it more and more. Your parents may have already made their end-of-life decisions or at least have thought about them. However, unless you ask them about it, you will never know what part of this process may end up becoming your responsibility.
Ideally this would have been a topic discussed early on during any initial Elderhood Planning Tasks. However, things may have gotten in the way of that so here you are right now.
So how do you go about having this conversation about end-of-life plans? The simplest way is just to ask the question; "Dad, have you ever talked about what happens if either one of you pass away?" Be mindful of their reaction. Listen to what they tell you and go from there. By having this Talk, is how to go about the Elderhood Planning process.
Another informative question to ask would be is there a Will, Power Of Attorney, and Healthcare Directive in place? Where do they have these documents stored? Do you know where to find them when you need them? This is all Estate Planning Basics.
So far, these questions may be leading you through a productive conversation until you reach the part about any funeral arrangements. "Have you given any thoughts about where you would like to be buried?"
People deal with the thought of death in different ways - some will be matter of fact about it or some may feel that doing it only accelerates it. Either way, the easiest way to do this part of the process is from the comfort of their home and Efuneral.com is a great tool to guide you through it.
BURIAL TYPES - There are two typical burial types - traditional or non-traditional (cremation). Your parents may have a definite preference. Be respectful of their wishes, religious or cultural observances and traditions. Traditional funerals tend to be very expensive averaging in the thousands of dollars. Some individuals are open to cremation which tends to cost much less than traditional ones.
BURIAL PLOTS - Finding the right resting place for a loved one is stressful. Here are some points to assist in this decision making process.
Family plot - Consider a location where other family members have been placed to rest.
Location - People often choose cemeteries close to home, but to whose home? Where the parents lived? Where you live? Consider a cemetery where other family members are put to rest or location where you know that someone will have the opportunity to visit them.
Religion - Religion plays a major part in selection process. Today's families are made up of different religions and cultures. Inquire with the cemetery if there are any religious requirements or restrictions.
Price -Plots and headstones are expensive. Some cemeteries offer an opportunity to pre-purchase a plot and then pay for it over time.
End-of-life planning is extremely stressful for both you and your loved one. When it becomes too overwhelming or if you are not comfortable doing this on your own, seek the assistance from an Eldercare Attorney.
So how much does a funeral cost? It will depend on your loved one's wishes. For a Traditional burials including the plot, they typically cost about $15K - $20K. Cremation tends to be less expensive about $1500, however, it is not always an option because of religious or cultural beliefs.
The perfect scenario for funding one final resting plans is your parents have set aside money for it. For those who have parents that are comfortable with all of this or who have the means with which to do it, they will make all of their funeral arrangements now. This means that they will go ahead and purchase their plot, work with a funeral home to pre-arrange all of their services and pay for all of it so that when their time does come, everything is already taken care of.
There are several ways to pay for a funeral.
Life Insurance Polices
Death Benefits from a Pension Plan
Families pooling their money together
Typically, funerals will be paid from the estate of the deceased or the widow/widower. The funeral home will require that all services are paid when the arrangements are made. Where it becomes a bit more complicated is when the funds are tied up within the estate, the person managing all of the arrangements may pay for it all out of pocket and then get reimbursed by the estate.
We should mention that over the years some unconventional ways of funding funerals; such as gofundme accounts have surfaced. We tend to have a difficult time dealing with death in general. Now it will become even more awkward seeing a plea coming from you for money to pay for a funeral. What is the expectation of your friends to contribute? What is going to be the outcome of the relationship with those friends who don't? We all have our own problems. You may want to think twice before visiting this type of funeral funding option.
The take away from this section is the importance of identifying how funeral plans will be paid for. The decision making process for this will not become any better in the future while you are grieving. However, the process will become easier when you put forth the effort in planning for it now.
" Knowledge is the key to a successful financial future. Mike Profit, MBA -
Financial Planner, MassMutual Greater Philadelphia
Dealing with their Stuff
We do not realize how much stuff is collected over time until you have to go through it after a loved one has passed away. This is an extremely emotional process for the one who will be responsible to do it.
You will look in every box, at every photo, and at every keepsake. It will not be an easy job to decide which items are given away, become donated or disposed of. However, there is a way to improve the outcome of this experience when doing this job is performed as a planned event with your loved one years earlier.
Some cultures refer to this process as "Death Cleaning." It is the practice of one giving away their belongings in an organized manner over time. The process usually starting in our 50s. “Death cleaning” is the literal translation of the Swedish word "dostadning", which means a decluttering process that begins as people age.
This concept has been introduced in a popular new book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” by Margareta Magnusson. By following this school of thought, it removes much of the emotional hardship on the ones who would have to do this job once our loved one has passed on.
Include "Spring Cleaning" as part of the process. Take the time to assess their household inventory, too. Have questionable collectibles appraised. This will also be helpful in valuating their Estate as part of the Estate Planning process.
When this process is performed systematically and timely, it will lead to a smoother transition between life events, reduce the amount of family drama and will help avoid any future rash decisions - like throwing or giving away a valuable picture by accident.
Properly disposing of Medication
One of the tasks you may be responsible for after a loved one passes away is disposing of any unused medications. There is a right and wrong way to go about it.
The wrong way is just flushing it down the toilet. This is a big No-No! The best way to go about it is to find a medication disposal site near you. Most police precincts, pharmacies and hospitals offer collection services.
If you would like to know whether a certain medication is one that could be flushed in the toilet, the FDA offers information on disposing of medication.
Re-Homing/Disposing of Durable Medical Goods
One of the tasks you may be responsible for after a loved one passes away is disposing of any durable medical items; such as: stair climbers, beds, portable showers etc.
There are several ways to go about this. We have found several organizations where you may donate your gently used items. Another way of going about this is offering your items to other families who may not be in a position to purchase them on their own and we can help with that.
Visit this section on Getting Rid of Stuff to find a listing of organizations that accept donations or learn how we help families by posting their items on our Social Media outlets for FREE. To learn more about this follow this link.
The Glamorous Life of the Executor/Executrix
This is not intended to be legal advise but rather to only offer direction on where to find information about performing tasks associated with this responsibility. If your loved one used an Attorney to create their Estate Plan, they should be the one who would be contacted when the time comes to execute the terms of their Will.
However, if you are adventurous and would like to attempt to manage an Estate on your own, here is some information about it.
Many become excited when they see their as the Executor/Executrix of a Will. Its not just a title, it’s a real job which comes with legal responsibilities.
This job will last several months maybe even years depending upon how complex the Estate is that you are managing. Everything you do will be scrutinized by the beneficiaries and may result in strained family relationship.
The Caregiver who transitions into the position as the Executor/Executrix of their loved ones Estate should be prepared for the responsibilities of this new role, too. Just like the Caregiver role, this job comes without a job description or a manual.
Therefore having some knowledge of what lies ahead may lead to a more positive experience. Don't guess and you don't have to do this on your own. Rely on amazing resources like Peter Gilbert, Highpoint Law Offices.
It is a real job with legal obligations.
As the Executor/Executrix, it will be your obligation to manage the Estate properly and legally. If you are unable to figure it out, then hire an Estate Attorney or a Probate Attorney. If are not going to be comfortable with being held accountable to other people as this process demands, while your loved one is alive have the Will changed to name someone else.
This is a job- a serious one. You would be eligible to be compensated by the Estate for your time, reimbursed for all of your travel expenses and any other expenses which are related to managing it.
But don't let all of this go to your head by thinking you will be able to fly first class or stay at five star hotels while doing this. Although you are the one in charge of managing the Estate, there are federal and state laws that provide legal oversight to this process, in addition you must ultimately answer to the beneficiaries.
You should also be aware of the emotional side of this role as the Executor. In addition to processing your own grief, there will be many challenges in dealing with emotions of the beneficiaries. These emotions sometimes bring out the ugly side of this process especially when beneficiaries mentally calculate their entitlements to their portion of the Estate.
Be prepared for the drama while in this role and while you are attempting to satisfy all of the legal requirements of your loved one's Estate.
Things you'll need to know when starting the Estate Process:
Death Certificate- which is issued by the Funeral Home.
The Will - Original, copies make this process more difficult!
Why do I need to "OPEN" an Estate?
Opening an Estate is necessary because someone needs to have access to your loved one's stuff! When they were alive, the Caregiver may have had a POA (Power of Attorney) which gave them access to the decedents (the person who passed away) stuff - bank accounts, investments, etc. However, the POA expires upon death and then the person who is named in the Will as the Executor or Executrix (female) is the one with legal authority to access the decedents stuff now.
To "turn on" that authority or to be recognized by financial institutions, the named Executor must obtain what is called a Letter of Administration from the Register of Wills in the county where the decedent resided by appearing in person with the Death Certificate and the Will. Each state has a process. Use the link below to find the answers you'll use to help guide you.
Don't be influenced by Urban Myths or hear-say about this process and think you'll be able to fumble your way around the system in order to get your hands on your loved one's stuff. When families work together to put a Will in place, even if it is a simple one, makes this process go so much easier!
What is Probate?
Aside from being a very scary word, Probate is the process of investigating and then assigning ownership of the decedents stuff to someone else. During this process, announcements will be sent to anyone they may owe money to and anyone who may be entitled to their stuff - beneficiaries.
When you are the Executor/Executrix of an Estate, there is an obligation to do the right thing while you are performing these duties and this is one of them.
Will we have to pay Inheritance Tax?
Never assume that since you are the son or daughter, you are entitled to receiving your parents stuff "free and clear". It will depend on where the decedent resided which will determine if any Inheritance Tax would be owed to the State and/or Federally.
Don't be cavalier! Be informed!
Just as love changes over time, so does grief. At first it is very powerful and consuming but then it begins to fade. It transforms and it just becomes a part of us as we move forward without them.
Everyone is different. How a friend may have dealt with their grief may not work for you. What is important to know is that this is Ok and you should not become frustrated in adopting their solution, but rather seek a solution that best fits what you need right now.
WAYS OF DEALING WITH THE GRIEF - Don't do it alone. Seek help!
Grief is a process. We cannot stress enough the importance of seeking bereavement support.
There are so many different support solutions available from faith based to community support groups. One of them may be the right fit for you:
Fitness for Grief; such as Yoga
Hospitals or Community Outreach Programs
Religious Institutions, Faith Based
Primary Care Giver
Professional Support - Therapist, Grief Counselor
Social Media - Facebook Groups, Online Zoom Support Groups
Unaddressed grief takes a toll on one's emotional well-being and on personal relationships with those around you. Family issues become magnified. Relationships become strained. You continually miss the person who is now gone and find unhealthy ways to fill that void.
Grief is a process which will take time. What is important to know about this part of the journey is there is help available and you are not alone.
Today may be difficult to get out of bed, but make it a goal to connect with a support channel.
Supporting you in this Process
Anastasia, Aging Parents Management
After the loss of our Mom, my sister and I struggled with grief for years. We tried to Google Grief support but what we found wasn't what we needed. We just did not have the time to keep looking, so we just dealt with it the best we could on our own. It has taken us 10 years to get over our grief which is why it was so important for us to find these resources to help make this process easier for you.
When our Dad passed away, it was much easier process for my sister.
The days before he passed, we were in constant contact with the priest of our church.
The plans regarding his final resting place were already made at the time Mom passed away.
My sister and I did not have to worry about any squabbles over his estate, because all of that was mapped out with the help of our Estate Planning Attorney, Mr. Peter Gilbert, of Hight Point Law Office.
This time we each knew what we would need in the days ahead in order to deal with our grief so our emotional healing process is much better.
The difference between the passing of both of our parents has been like night and day. What do we feel made the biggest impact - it was being better prepared and aware of the process and having the right things in place for when they were needed.