Trust Me

The Importance Of Wills and Trusts For Peace of Mind.

Wills and trusts create an ease of mind for the person who owns property or any asset.  They also provide assurance and piece of mind to your loved ones.   In this post I talk about trust and respect within the family.  I also talk about the legal measures to take in order to maintain sanity in a painful period of time.

Beginning of Trust

Being the youngest sibling sometimes becomes a disadvantage.  Your family see you grow.  They see your victories as well as your loses, they know your strengths and weaknesses.  This knowledge makes it hard for some family members to trust one another because they jump to conclusions.  Trust is a virtue and it goes both ways.  Their is a significant amount of faith a person has to have in order to trust another.  As we grow and leave the nest we loose track of how we grow and mature.  Leaving an impression of ourselves on others of yesteryears.  The person we have become is not the same person our family used to know.  This was a lesson I learned a few months ago.

The Nightmare Begins

My mother passed away.  Although I have been caring for her 24 hours a day for the last few months, I also have been tending to her for the last year.  This period of caring and companionship gave me the opportunity to come to terms with her passing and with other personal issues.  I was able to make peace with her while she was here, deepen our relationship, and build a trust that helped me through the caregiving period of our lives.  Unfortunately, my siblings didn’t have the same opportunity as I.  It was difficult for them to take time off.

Then it happened, she passed in her sleep.  After caring for my mom for a while, I was prepared for this moment, expecting it.  It was a long hard weekend with stabilizing her pain, and finally towards the end of the weekend I realized the inevitable so I tried to prepare my siblings as much as possible.  I made the necessary calls, and Hospice took care of the rest.  I kept my calm through the storm of emotions, taking deep breaths because there were times it felt as if I was not breathing.

My aunt arrived to see my mom two days later.  By then, the environment, energy, dynamic in the family had changed a bit.

Looking back to move Forward

We had an issue with the funeral home.  My mom never divorced, so her next of kin is my abusive father.  We could not sign for her funeral arrangements.  My dad had to sign.  When I brought it to my oldest sibling the reaction was volatile.  To be expected after such a loss.  After some discussion I approached the funeral director and asked to see what could be done to avoid having to find and talk to my father.  Luckily, there was a way.  

This still left us with a bit of uncertainty.   Does everything my mom possessed go to my dad?  This also inspired a sense of distrust on my oldest sibling, which made her use her “I’m the oldest” ranking with me.  Almost like trying to put me in my place.  Not only are we all going through a very emotional period of our lives, now we are pulling rank.  To top it off there are no legal documents, trusts, wills, advocacy, power of attorney in which my mom leaves details of how and what to do with her possessions.

When Emotions come to play, Reason takes a nap

The only major possession is the house.  Yes, The House That Zoe is Rebuilding.  In a brief history, once my mom bought it, the ones living on the property were her, my brother and I.  My sister, the eldest left for college.  I later left for college, leaving my brother and my mom.  There was a small period in which my mom lived alone, then my brother moved back until I was asked to move in to care for my mom 10 years ago.

My mom offered my sister to move in with her many times, and many times my sister declined.  A few years back I had a conversation with my sister.  My sister is the oldest and I wanted to pay her the respect of consulting with her first.  At the time she said she was not interested in the house.  Something she had said to my mom many times as well.

My brother has his place and family and many times he told me that this house was my house, he couldn’t financially  care for it as much anymore.  My mom and I talked about what would happen after she passes many times, and in the last year I was insisting on her putting her wishes on a will.  She thought that since my siblings don’t show any interest in owning or living in the house, plus I have been living the house for so many years there would not be an issue.

Emotions play an intricate part on decision making.  Emotions alter the way people think and react.  The loss of my mother prompt my sister to take command of the situation.  My sister began giving me ultimatums in order for me to stay.  I love this house, because to me the house is my mom, and I want to bring to fruition some of her dreams for the house, and bring the house to a more livable and sustainable home.  My response to the ultimatums was to leave, and her response was to sell.  Thankfully the house is under my mom and aunt’s names.  My aunt decided we are not selling. She wishes me to stay and continue fixing and living on the property,.

This experience has taught me the following

  • If you are in an abusive marriage, get a divorce.  All circumstances are different, but in the event of domestic violence, get a divorce.  It will not be easy, but it is a step that your children will appreciate.  It is hard to relive  memories and emotions especially during an already painful moment such as death.  We never thought the funeral home will require my father’s signature.Some states, do not require for both parties to be present.  Seek legal guidance for more information.  Click here for my Resource guide for Domestic Abuse.
  • A separation does not make a divorce.  A separation is just that, two married people living in separate places, states, households, but all rights remain the same.
  • No matter your age, draw out a living will.  It also helps to give your assets to those you want them to have it.  Don’t wait until you are dead, you can’t help your children and family then.  Make a spread sheet of your possessions.  Then talk to your children or loved ones about what you want to do with them.

We are so afraid of dying that sometimes we think that just talking about dying is going to kill us.  On top of that, we forget we can not take any of the material possessions.  We don’t consider the legal complications that arise for those left behind.  Being a son, daughter, spouse does not mean access or rights to anything.  If we have houses, cars, and or money, then we have to have documented legal resolution.  Even if we do not have any material possession to leave behind.  It will be our best practice to ease the pain and burden of those we love to place proper documentation for how we would like our health issues dealt with.

Wills and Trusts, the ins and outs

Here are the most important documents you will need for all your possessions and health/medical needs.

Last Will and Testament: The wishes of the person details how his or her property is to be distributed at death, here the person names one or more persons as an executor to manage the estate until its final distribution.

Living Revocable Trust:  In a revocable trust assets are placed into a trust during the person’s lifetime, then assets are transferred to designee.

Advanced Directive:  A document detailing the person’s medical wishes and treatments.  This document establishes communication to the doctor in the event the person is not able to communicate.  It also eliminates or diminishes arguments among family members as to how to care for the person.

Power of Attorney:  Gives the authority to a person to represent and conduct business in behalf of another person.  This is a document needed for all financial matters.

My mom intended to make all the required arrangements before her passing.  Accessibility/mobility, finances, and decisiveness kept us from completing them.  This left us in limbo and dealing with situations which slow the process of fixing and caring for the house.

For our needs the last will and power of attorney would have solved many of the issues we encountered.  The doctor’s office and Hospice offered advanced directives so in a way we lucked out.  These advanced directives are very generic but still efficient.  Writing your own advanced directive will state your personal wishes as to how you would like your health needs to be taken care of.

The Resolve

Once my mother passed I had to settle her accounts.  I quickly learned that without a power of attorney I could not settle any of her accounts.  In efforts to fix the house I found a few low income programs to fix the house.  I found a weatherization program which will repair/replace the air conditioner, a HUD based program which will replace one of five areas in the house; plumbing, electrical, HVAC, roofing, or accessibility, and finally a program with my local power company in which paying an extra $10 per month will give me access to a professional electrician to come and fix any issues in the house.  These programs have to wait until we can get the accounts settled because I need to prove that I have the power to make decisions in the house.

We never thought about these complications, therefore we did not put much importance on avoiding them.  In retrospect I wish we had.  It is not the idea of owning anything, but the helpless feeling of not being able to do anything because your name is not on a document.  If you have assets, plan how you want the assets disbursed.

When it comes to family.  Make amends.  Since my argument with my sister we have been able to make peace.  We are working on rebuilding our relationship and move forward a day at a time.  It is not easy, our argument brought forth old emotions and there is a level of discomfort, at least for me.  The important thing for me at this point is to make amends with her.  We share a few hobbies and interests and both of our healing in the grief will be easier together.

Here are a few of my favorite websites for financial and legal advice:

Have you started planning for the future?

About Zoe Brooks

I am a home owner with bad credit and low funds who needs to fix her house. Althought I have not studied construction, lawn and garden, electricity or plumbing, I still try my best to fix my issues quickly, safely, and permanently.

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