Serving as Executor

Over the last year I’ve had to serve as executor to two estates, my father-in-law’s estate and my wife’s estate.  But these were not my first experiences at this task.  I had to close out my parent’s estates both in 2003.  It’s challenging.  It’s frustrating.  It gives you no time to grieve for the one you lost.  Attorneys are constantly asking for this information or that information. In the meantime you have to sift through years of paperwork, discover accounts, locate documents, and try to figure out where everything was stored.  There is no time for anything. No time to relax.  No time to watch a little television.  Then if you have to sell off a house or other property, the workload increases dramatically with having to clean out a house filled with decades of accumulated things, trash the junk and the worthless, sell off the better stuff for pennies on the dollar, list the house for sale, deal with realtors who only really care about turning over the house as fast as possible, negotiate the final sale, file all the necessary paperwork and file final taxes.  Multiply the complexity of having to deal with estates from a different state than the one you live in with each state wanting a piece of your pie and it is at times enough to make you go crazy.

Even working with an attorney can be a massive drain on your energy and your well being. Then friends and relatives (if you still have any) begin to wonder why you have changed.  You never seem to have time for them.  You never have time to go out, to go to the movies, or to one of the parks.  And when you do go, they think that you are insensitive about the loss of your loved one.  It’s kind do mind numbing.  People may say ‘Can we help?’ But what can they really do? Trips to the courthouse, lunchtime meetings with banks and attorneys, going to the post office to send registered mail, and countless phone calls that you must take during work because these other people do not work evenings or weekends even though you boss is angry with you for taking personal calls while you are at work.  Dealing with insurance firms and investments who require a dozen different documents to prove the other person is really dead and you have the rights to handle the estate.  Paying expenses out of your own pocket until the estate can free up some accounts and give you access to them.  Balancing other peoples checkbooks.  The list goes on and on and sometimes you just wish that you had gone first and no one understands why you seem so worn out and down.  After all, it has been 3 months since the other person died.  But estates can take months if not years to completely resolve and close.  Perhaps for the dead, it is one final cruel joke to play on the living to account for all the things you should have done while they were alive but didn’t.

Eventually you get close to finishing everything and you just want to sit back or lay down, rest, and do nothing.  But others tasks have been pilling up.  You want to take time to grieve but it has been so long that the feelings of loss have dulled. maybe it is also from all the aggregation of closing the estate.  So while you feel an emptiness, maybe even a bit of loneliness, the pain of your loss is mostly gone.  You tend to remember more of the good times, not the bad times.  You begin to plan on how to move forward again.  How to find meaning in each day again. This is another time that relatives may call you cold and uncaring, and that hurts more than your loss because you have made peace with your loss. You have worked through your feelings while you struggled to close the estate. You want to move on but they don’t want to let you.  They keep trying to pull you back to a state of grief that you have already left behind. They don’t understand that it is over.  That it is time for a new chapter.

Sure executors get paid for handling the estate.  A whopping 2% which unless you are executor for a large estate ode an estate with many heirs is nothing.  Certainly not considering the stress and aggregation. And especially not if you are the only one to inherit the estate anyway.  Especially not if the work places your job/career in danger.  Did I tell you about the judge who almost wanted me to post a bond so I would not steal money from myself?

So another year is about to start.  I’m close to closing these two estates.  I don’t know for sure what the new year will bring.  There are some bright spots to focus on. My final recommendation to you the reader is that if anyone asks you to be their executor for their estate, try if at all possible to avoid it.  And if you must do it because there is no one else, find a good attorney who will guide you through the legal morass of estate law. Perhaps even consider some estate planning for yourself now like making sure all of your investments have beneficiaries or you could set up revocable trusts in your beneficiaries names while still retaining control.  Perhaps that could be a New Year’s resolution.

C’ya later.

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Droning On and On

Earlier this week Jeff Bezos of Amazon announced their ambitious plan to deliver products ordered online to the customer within 30 minutes.  Of course this promise comes with a major caveat, that being that the customer must live within a 10-mile radius of an Amazon distribution center.  I guess that means that they will need to build distribution centers around the country like Walmart builds stores.  Anyway, how is Amazon planning to achieve this 30-minute goal?  By using drone aircraft of course.

Drone aircraft?  I’m not sure if these will be remotely piloted or whether they will have artificial intelligence to avoid things like bridges, fly balls over ball parks, other drones, tall buildings, or even Superman.  I’m sure some of these details remain to be worked out.  Jeff did say that one hurtle is getting FAA approval for low flying aircraft.  I suppose that includes concerns about sharing airspace with things like traffic helicopters, news helicopters, and emergency helicopters.  Maybe they will define different altitudes for travel in different directions like they do for commercial flights.

Jeff also stated that the program would be piloted (pun intended) in New York and Los Angeles, two densely populated cities which would cover a lot of potential customers using the 10-mile radius limitation.  But my question for such densely populated areas is how does a drone deliver a package to a customer on the 10th floor of a high rise apartment building?  Do they drop the package by parachute or just try to shoot it through an open window?  Perhaps the customer lives in a townhouse instead.  Will the GPS be accurate enough to deliver the package to the right doorstep and not allow it to drift in the breeze to a neighbor’s door?  And if the package is delivered to the wrong doorstep, who is responsible?

Another thing to consider is what happens when the mechanism that grips the package, which by the way could weigh up to 5 pounds, fails and the package falls from the drone onto your car are you drive down the street or on a person walking around the block or on two young lovers kissing in the park?

What if these drones are remotely piloted and the ‘pilots’ start to play ‘war games’ and start competing with each other earning points for what they hit with their packages?  Once they start doing that, it is a small step to begin arming their drones with little guns or perhaps even a small high powered laser.  Soon we might have dogfights in our sky with Amazon trying to shoot down Overstock who is trying to laser NoMoreRack who is trying to crash into Land’s End and on and on.  The fallout, literally, from these dogfights will rain down on pedestrians as millions of dollars in merchandize goes undelivered to the sound of crying children on Christmas morning when their toys, ordered by their parents (or guardians), fails to show up because they were shot down a mere two blocks from a safe delivery.

Extreme?  Yes! But it is the Christmas season where people stay up all night or even camp out by their favorite stores to get the latest ‘got-to-have’ toy or electronics.  So is it that hard to believe parents going out to shoot down drones carrying the latest Play Station 47 or Xbox GX9 before it can be delivered to the Jones family down the street?

Well it is the Christmas season, the time of year retailers live for.  So who knows what will happen when Amazon launches their drones.  Tis the season to think and be wary, fa-la-la-la-la…..

C’ya next time.