Hopefully this year is a great year for you all!
I know it’s been a while since my last posts. December hit me like a ton of bricks.
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Annabelle’s Close Call
Our youngest dog, Annabelle, had something wrong with her that made her not eat, very lethargic, and distant from us. Obviously, I was concerned and took her to a vet.
After a week of the vet running tests and X-rays, there was still no problem to be found. Our options were: go to a specialist to see what they could find ($8,000+), exploratory surgery hoping to find the problem ($2,800), or put her down ($120). Being she is only 2 years old, it felt wrong to put her down. Unfortunately, money was already tight as it was the holidays.
Thankfully, I was able to scrape up the money for the surgery. They found out that part of her intestines were being suffocated/strangled and slowly dying. They were able to fix her up and she is back to her old self now!
The Loss of My Father
On Christmas Eve, I got a phone call that my father had passed away the day before. This was a terrible shock! We knew he had some health problems (who doesn’t), but he seemed in decent health.
He was in Arizona when it happened (as he liked to travel all over the country). Me, being in California, was the closest relative as the others were mostly in Wisconsin.
I never received a phone call from police (or anyone) about his passing, so I had minimal information to go off of. It was my father’s girlfriend who had tried contacting him the previous day and was told by the truck stop he was staying at about his passing away. I called the hospital who put me in contact with the police dispatch (as the police station was closed that late on Christmas Eve). Dispatch was able to tell me where his body and vehicle were located. Unfortunately, that had to wait 3 days until Monday came around for anyone to be open.
After many phone calls and emails, I was able to handle the arrangements and schedule a day to drive out to get the death certificates from the funeral home, and vehicle from the tow yard. Unfortunately, I had to wait another 4 days before I could get out there.
To get the vehicle, I needed the death certificates. To get the death certificates, I had to wait because they were only processed every Wednesday. Finally, I was able to get out there and get those things taken care of. I was not able to pick up his ashes, but they are going to send those to me once they are available.
What Happens When You Don’t Plan
After reading all that, it seems relatively easy right? Wrong!!
My father was a very secretive person so I had to call his sisters and girlfriend to see if he ever mentioned any final wishes. He did not have many possessions or money, but he still did not create a will (or other written wishes). I didn’t have any family that interfered/fought me on anything so that helped a lot. His possessions consisted of his vehicle (and what he had in it), 2 bank accounts, and 2 storage spaces.
Still seems easy, huh? I thought so too until I started calling around. Even though I have physical possession of the vehicle, getting it transferred to me (or anyone) is a hassle as it has to go through probate. It is registered in Wisconsin, so it has to go through probate in Wisconsin! But wait….his storages are located in Missouri! So they have to go through Missouri probate. Being his bank accounts are held by a national bank, they can be included in the Wisconsin probate.
Now for those of you still reading this and saying “what the heck is probate?!” I’ll tell you. It’s a long legal process where the county/state goes through a person’s assets and liabilities. They pay off any debts for that person, take their share (usually a small percentage), and then distribute the remaining to any family. The probate process does change from state to state so you will have to research your specific state probate requirements.
Before he passed, I would yell at him. (I know that sounds harsh but I was hoping it would help.) I kept telling him to take his meds (which he told me he was), to pay his past due bills so it wouldn’t end up on me (to which he replied that “it wouldn’t” and they could “get their money over his dead body”), and to tell someone his wishes or to create a will so everyone knew what to do (to which he said “I’m going to live forever so I don’t need that”).
Did he do any of that? Nope. I found many prescription pill bottles that were frequently refilled but seems like they were never/rarely taken. He did not pay any past due bills. and told very little to anyone about his final wishes. He had no one else’s name on his vehicle, storages, or bank accounts.
On a side note, in most states, if you list another person on the account or as a beneficiary, whatever their name is on would (usually) goes straight to that other person. No probate involved. Unfortunately for us, he is solely listed on everything.
The last couple days, I have called over a dozen lawyers from both Wisconsin and Missouri trying to figure out how to proceed with everything. Out of those dozen calls, I was able to leave 4 messages. The other phone numbers either did not have voicemails, or are no longer in business.
Since his passing, and all my research to figure this out, I have decided these are the important things to plan before you die:
- Add beneficiaries to anything you can (IRAs, 401K and other retirement accounts, bank accounts, etc)
- Have a co-signer/co-applicant on anything you can (bank accounts, mortgages, vehicles)
- Create a living trust or will, and file it accordingly (many wills still need to go through probate and will need to be filed with your county/state)
- Let someone (or more than 1 person) know all this, such as your wishes, your will/living trust, your co-signer/applicants, and/or beneficiaries
At least spend some time researching your options or contact a lawyer to see what needs to happen for things to go smoothly for your loved ones.
Being my father did not have many assets but had many liabilities, the family may not see anything ever again. Even though there are so many family pieces that have been handed down in those storage units. Lawyers and probate do not care what a person owns. They just want their money and will sell literally everything to get their cut.
Please be smart and take care of your things and family before it’s too late, and have your family do the same. It’s hard enough to loose a family member, but then to get the headache of jumping through hoops to finish it all is horrible.