Saturday, November 3, 2012

Watch out for yourself

My sister Kathy recently came for a week which turned into 10 days because of the Frankenstorm Sandy. It was a warm and good visit.

Kathy stepped in and helped with the set up for the storm - but more than that - she stepped in to help me through a few things I hadn't expected to be so dificult.

It is now eight months since Jim died...and I appreciated her being here  - perhaps even more now than earlier -

Yes,  I have done many tough things during these months but there was one looming that really called for a sister's help.
Jim and I held everything ..we thought..jointly. But, it turned out that one thing had slipped through. The title on our car was only in Jim's name. The license tags were expiring October 31 and I had to take Jim's name off the title in order to get new ones.

Kathy went to the Department of Motor Vehicles with me to fix it. I had to take a packet of papers: Jim's death certificate, the original title, the Administration paper naming me Executor of the estate, insurance info, and my drivers license. Waiting my turn, holding those documents I began to tear up as it "hit" me emotionally. I was here to accomplish one more separation from Jim.

No, you don't get used to it...

My voice broke and I cried when the woman took the title. When I asked for a copy she refused  saying, "you don't need it". When I said "I know that" she realized the emotional impact, relented and copied it for me. And issued the new annual sticker for the tags.

So, here is what I am learning:
We are all going to die, that's certain. You can save your loved one a lot of pain if you take the time before something happens to side step emotional pot holes. Just do it together and forget it.

 I wish Jim and I had done more to prepare. In fairness I have to admit - Jim wanted to; I couldn't - because I could not admit - even to myself that he was leaving.

If you are married or hold assets together with anyone - check that everything is in both your names.  It will save one of you from tough experiences later in many areas, not just the DMV.

Gather the ownership titles, deeds, wills, insurance info and other financial paperwork into a central file where they are easily accessible - or leave a list of the documents and where they are located. Someone will have to file Estate Taxes and will need that paper work.

Yes,  I talked to the bank folks shortly after Jim died. All the accounts were in both our names. My son set me up on on-line banking. I like it and that seemed to be that. But don't under estimate the toll grief takes on your "thinking". You aren't aware of it yourself so why should strangers recognize that you aren't really following what they are telling you.

My sister is retired from a national bank where she was a branch manager. She went with me to talk to the banker guy about my accounts - what kind of accounts are they, are they the best type for me etc.  He had gone over this with me before but it was like I was hearing it for the first time. I had forgotten that a few years ago Jim had activated an "access" line of credit as a resource if I needed it. When and how would it be the most helpful if I ever decided to tap into it? Having my sister with me was wonderfully helpful. Whenever she saw that I was not fully getting it she asked questions to clarify and make sure I understood. It makes a big difference.

Another tip: Don't think that because months have passed that you have moved beyond asking someone to advise or help you. Take somebody you trust with you when you have to do something really hard - like change a car title, and watch out for surprises - sometimes things that seem to be small have a powerful punch.

When you are grieving - you look normal on the outside - but inside you aren't - so -  protect yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Ellouise for sharing your journey, thoughts, feelings, memories, advice and so much more. Thinking of you, and Jim, and being glad to have you as a friend and an inspiration too.