Tuesday, June 08, 2010

One and Only

After our shared music at Sunday’s piano group, the discussion turned to dividing up the parental estate, something all of us had been or were going through.  I was struck with how lucky I was to be an only child.
People described several fancy schemes intended to make the distribution fair and square.  They also mentioned their surprise at some of the things their siblings had chosen.
About 10 years ago I found myself in the position of going through a lifetime of possessions of my parents, who had saved virtually everything.  After my father’s funeral, I had just a few days away from work to plow through everything, sell the very dilapidated house, and pack up those things I chose to take.
It was chaotic.  I rented a dumpster, where things like the hundreds of trays from my father’s TV dinners immediately went.  I had the help of church friends, who probably felt sorry for me as an only child having to face such a daunting task.  I ended up throwing out some things I now wish I had kept.  But I made it through most everything of potential interest or historical significance, leaving the remainder for a large yard sale to benefit the church.
There was never a question of right.  It was all mine if I had wanted it.  Fortunately I was discriminating.  I am happy now to have some things that remind me who my parents were, that remind me why I am who I am.
Leaving no children is perhaps an even more difficult situation.  My husband is acting as the executor for his deceased Aunt Zelda, who never married or had children.  Fortunately she did leave a very explicit will.  But during the probate period, it has been interesting to see just how many of her relatives think they should be rewarded in some way.  It has truly brought out the worst in a few people and has caused my husband some moments of anguish as he attempts to do the job he is charged with.
Once again I am reminded that one and only often left me lonely, but made dealing with inheritance so easy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As usual you're looking at your glass half-full! :-) Being an only child does usually make the inheritance process easier. I was executrix of my mom's estate (I have two older brothers), and her advocate before her death, which was quite wrenching in some ways.

I don't have kids, and honestly one of my many reasons for my slow-but-steady de-cluttering and pruning is that I really wouldn't want to leave my loved ones and family with the emotional and logistical nightmare of sorting through and disposing of my stuff. I know you feel the same way!

I'm glad you kept things that mattered to you. I still have one of mom's threadbare daily aprons.


7:49 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Been there too many times. Seen it all. Still in one estate mess that won't end. At least you didn't also get setting up trusts or selling out of state property or suing religious leaders. Can you tell I'm tired of it all? I am. Didn't even get into the real horrors: greedy relatives, neighbors ripping open garbage bags, theft...

10:35 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Anon F -- I love it that you have your mother's old apron. I'm sure you have fond memories of her wearing it while cooking something you loved to eat.

Cube -- My only battles were with the IRS while I managed to do all estate tax thing myself without the help of an accountant or a lawyer. It was a learning experience. I'm just sorry I had to give Uncle Sam such a big piece. Unfortunately that was not optional.

11:48 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

Interesting post! And I have seen all these different scenarios, too (my husband, the lawyer, even many more - mostly very unpleasant). It is good to leave a will. It is also nice to give people who have meant something to you, a valuable piece of your things (preferably, as they say, with warm hands). But apparently you can never be "just" when it comes to siblings. So make your will as you think right, and set in a trustee (or what are they called? Someone to carry it out). And before you get old and fragile, throw out your clutter yourself!
Okay, will go and do that now, haha.

3:22 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I've occasionally thought about how this will work with my parents and siblings. Fortunately we all have a good relationship and I don't really want much in the way of stuff. Just some pictures, really. I'm going to be way too busy grieving to think about much else, I'm sure.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

How sad (and how telling) that the distribution of possessions and money can divide families so drastically.

I was not an only child but my family (while not destitute by any means) did not have means enough to fight over. When my mother was certain she would not live much longer, she called all four of us to her side, gave us pen and paper, and sent us off to list our most favorite of her possessions. She made it understood that duplicates on any list would be agreed upon then and there or sold and the $ divided. What was not on any list was to be sold and the money divided amongst the four of us. Not one of us had the same items on our lists and when my mother passed away, there was no bitterness, no fighting, and no regrets.

4:33 PM  

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