I've been distracted as of late by the recent death of my mother, the impending wedding of my daughter, and the interminable process of settling an estate. Of the three, the estate has been the worst. My mother was very ill. By the time she died, she had left a five year old Chevy on which she owed money, a modest condo worth less than a luxury car in today's market, and a small amount of money in the bank, co-incidentally just over what she owed in debts. So I was not particularly perturbed about settling it. I knew the estate was not big enough for probate in Florida, so I never anticipated the hoops through which I would need to jump.
Now, if you're rich, you hire an attorney, pay lots of money, and forget about the thing. If you're not so rich, you impose on an attorney friend and do the legwork yourself. If you're poor, I have no idea what you do, as I can't conceive you would have to go through the whole rigmarole. All I know is that when Mom died, I began to pay her bills off with the account that we'd always used. The crematory notified Social Security, so that was done. I paid off her car. Check. When I went to pay off her bank credit card, I found that the same bank she owed the money to had frozen her funds. It was just as well, because just about that time, I discovered that I wasn't allowed to do it. I had to file some probate variant with the court. Filing fees, Ka-ching. Advertising in the paper for three months, Ka-ching. By the way, keep paying the maintenance fees on the condo, the insurance on the car, they're yours. Ka-ching.
Oh, my lawyer informs me a month later, we'll need an inventory of her belongings. What belongings?, I reply. Lets see, an extensive wardrobe I've donated to Goodwill. Some furniture my husband had scrounged for her, also donated to Goodwill. She did have quite a costume jewelry collection I didn't have the heart to donate. And I still have her bottle collection. Don't get excited. They're just ordinary bottles. My mother, the folk artist, collected bottles she liked. Sum total: dismal. I realized that she had been shedding possessions for years. She had very little left. She had, however, traveled extensively, eaten her way across Sarasota, and generally enjoyed herself. That doesn't count.
The bank she owes the money to, which has frozen the funds to pay them, now sics a collection agency on her. I get a phone call. I tell them, "She's dead." I guess a lot of people must use that excuse, because she says, "Oh, I'll tell them not to call you for like three or four days."
"You gotta be kidding me," I reply. "You guys froze the funds. Now you gotta wait three months like everyone else."
Then begins the reign of terror. They call me every day. If I don't answer they call twice a day. Finally, I do what I should have done in the first place but was too peeved to do. I call this TARP bank. After giving them the name of my much put upon lawyer, it subsides.
Now this poor fellow informs me that I need proof that I paid the car. On that hangs another tale. This but the beginning of my adventures in nonprobate land.