When my Dad died and my sister and I went home, it was interesting the roles we took in the whole episode. Being a nit-picking, list ticking, pedantic nutcase, it seemed best I took on all the bureaucracy and paperwork. I have since been ringing Mum everyday to support her in all the things she has had to do since and it breaks my heart, that I can’t just do it all for her from here.
It has surprised me just how much there is to sort out and how messy it all is and how many unexpected surprises/shocks that we have had.
My poor mum lost one of their dogs, just after Dad died (he was very old and poorly, but still not a nice thing to happen.) Anyway, a box got delivered. It was medicine for the dead dog. Mum had no idea about it. She rang the company and said she didn’t want it as the dog was dead. The lady said “Oh dear, well it’s a monthly order that your husband has organised, we will need to talk to him.” Mum said, “He’s dead as well.” The poor woman at the end of the phone must have gone into complete shock – but kindly offered to take the medicine back and stop the monthly payments.
My mum then tried to sell her TV and as it was brand new, she wanted to transfer the warranty as well. But Dad had bought the TV, so Mum had to fill in forms, get a justice of the peace to sign a statutory declaration and a copy of the death certificate. JUST TO SELL THE TV!
The solicitor has been trying to organise the sale of Mum’s house – but Dad had forgotten to sign the end of the mortgage papers in 1989. Mum had to troop off to the bank with all the forms. The woman said that she would have to take the forms home and get them signed by her husband. I think at this point Mum had had enough and promptly and loudly stated “I can’t get him to sign them, he’s dead!” Who would of thought that something from the 80’s, other than our dreadful perms and plastic jewellery, would come back to be a problem.
Then get this one… so Mum needs to move her money over to the UK when she leaves Australia for good. The banks in the UK won’t let me open her a bank account until she is physically present here. But the Australian bank won’t transfer her money if she is not in Australia. She is going to have to put it in my account, which will set the worlds fraud alerts off and I will get a phone call from the somebody querying it. Honestly why do people have to complicate things so much. Surely with internet banking, it’s just a matter of transferring some numbers on the computer. They don’t actually have to package up the notes and post them over or anything.
Anyway, here are my top tips for dealing with paper work when and before someone dies.
- Talk to your partner or the person who will deal with everything after you have gone. If possible, do not leave them with surprises and if possible give them the information about everything. I have started a “What if” book. It has who we have our electricity with etc., bank accounts, email passwords etc. My hubby has no idea about any of it and he wouldn’t know where to start.
- If possible, put money away for a funeral – THEY ARE EXORBARANT – even the cheap ones.
- Do not go and pay all the outstanding debts without querying them. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!! So, pay attention. If the debt is only in the deceased’s name – the widow does not necessarily have to pay it. The company or bank WILL NOT offer you this information, as they want it paid, no matter if the grieving widow can’t afford it. Always push for information of the legal requirements. For example: A secondary card owner of a Credit Card Debt is not liable. They will not tell you this! And they will try and chase it. But hold firm.
- Expect surprises and lots and lots of silly paper work. Start a little notebook to keep track, as there is A LOT!
- When contacting companies, banks, government departments always search out the bereavement contact number and/or if you are dealing with older people, the pensioner line. This will get you through quicker and to a more helpful person.
- When talking to people about sorting it out, admit complete confusion and keep talking about the drama of it all – being a grieving widow, daughter – gets you a lot of help, and people are more likely to go above and beyond for you. Bit harsh saying that – but at this time, you need all the help you can get, so you might as well play the card.
- To find out the hidden things, scan the bank accounts for the last year, look for things that are paid regularly – they may be a set up payment you need to cancel etc. It’s a really good place to start if you have no idea what’s going on.
- Lastly expect it to take time and don’t fret, just take it step by step, one silly paperwork issue at a time.
I hope this helps someone, sometime. Because trust me – it’s been a HUGE learning curve for me and more so for my poor Mum. But this time in 4 weeks she will be here with us and I will be so grateful.