As all of you know, my mother passed away recently. There are many details that need to be handled:
- Does she want to be buried or cremated?
- Where to place her remains?
- Who gets her belongings? Her money?
- Who is to take care of her demented husband?
- Where are my uncle’s ashes?
All of this could have been handled through a will, but she didn’t leave one. That leaves all of us to handle the mess that she left behind. Here is the mess:
We don’t know how much money she had, how many debts that she had, or where all of her belongings are located. I’m doing my best to honor her wishes while at the same time being fair to all involved, but it is a minefield.
First, all three of us siblings, as well as my brother’s wife (my SIL) remember her saying that she wanted to be cremated. Done. But what to do with the ashes?
- Mom’s husband wants her ashes to be placed somewhere that they can be interred together.
- My brother wants her ashes to be placed in the burial plot next to dad because mom paid for it, and even has her name and photo on the headstone.
- My sister wants some of the ashes to be placed in lockets that she and her kids can wear.
- My SIL says that mom told her that she didn’t want to be buried next to dad.
- My response to all of this, is that if mom had strong feelings one way or the other, she should have had a will made up that would tell us what she wanted. In the absence of a will, we are left to do what we think is best.
Financially, we have found a credit card with her name on it that has an outstanding balance of $350, and a checking account that has less than $1,000. We don’t know where the rest of her money is, or even if there IS any more money. So how that gets distributed is a mystery. The three of us kids decided to just give the husband the money.
Then there is the fact that my brother and I are paying for the funeral arrangements because the husband can’t. The daughter won’t be able to take care of him. She doesn’t believe this, even though I tried to explain to her how much care is required for a person in their 80s who has dementia. She thinks that they are going to move in together so she can keep an eye on him. That isn’t going to work.
That means he will wind up in a nursing home or memory care center. The way that those work is that they are so expensive, the home takes every asset that the patient has- their home, social security benefits, savings, all of it. The only way to save those assets from being taken by the nursing home is to put any assets that they have in a trust. The daughter wants all of mom’s assets to be put in a trust to pay for the long term care of her widower, but the daughter wants us to name her as the trustee.
I don’t mind the husband getting most of that stuff, but in those scenarios, the nursing home or his daughter are the ones who get everything. None of it will actually benefit mom’s husband.
Mom also owned a car. The husband wants that car because the car he owns has a Blue Book value of $7500, but he still owes $10,000. The problem there is that he isn’t supposed to be driving because just a month ago, he was the subject of a search when he went to the store and was missing for hours because of his dementia.
Complicating all of this is the fact that Mom’s husband is obviously deep in the grips of dementia. He hasn’t yet been diagnosed with it because he refuses to go to the doctor, but he is worse than Joe Biden in the mental faculties department. What this means is that normally the husband would be the one to make these decisions as her next of kin, but he is in no position to pay for any of this, or to make any informed decisions. His daughter has stepped forward and claimed that, since he can’t make the decisions, it all falls on her because she is HIS next of kin.
As to who will take care of my mother’s husband, I was in my 50’s when my Mom married this guy. I don’t know him, nor do I owe him anything. Taking care of him is his daughter’s responsibility.
Even more complicated is that my aunt (mom’s younger sister) died back in March. My uncle (the aunt’s husband) died about a year ago. Mom wound up with the ashes of both of them. We found my aunt’s ashes. We haven’t found my uncle’s. My mom couldn’t stand his ass- she downright hated him. Mom had mentioned to my sister that she was planning on flushing “that no-good sonuvabitch’s” ashes down the toilet in the nastiest, dirtiest gas station bathroom that she could find. (Yes, Mom could hold a grudge) The issue there is that his family wants his ashes returned to them. We can’t find them, and well, I think I know where they went.
It’s a mess, and the three of us (me, my brother, and my sister) are left to try and navigate this mess. I’m trying to be as fair and objective as possible, but this is far more difficult than I thought it would be.