Friday, August 19, 2011

Procedural Death ~ Processing

Different things have been on my mind. It’s a slow period at work and at times I get antsy. But once I accept and get used to this lull, I’m able to invite the clear slate and let my mind wander—about ways to improve or introduce new ideas. During the process, I usually stumble upon or keep coming back to interests that only started as small flickers and then I seize upon them. But one of my downfalls—wait—I mean one of the challenges that can be both productive and not so productive—the story of my life—is that I get excited about something new and either it takes or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, I try to absorb as much on the surface as possible and then see where that leads me. I’ve come to accept that I love information, ideas, anything that gets me thinking and/or creating. And with that, I’ve had to accept that I end up not walking too steadily down any one path. I seem to keep many paths open.

For some time I’ve had a certain fascination with what happens from a familial and procedural point of view when someone dies. This curiosity became more embedded when I saw it play out in different ways that you see when you’re right up close with it.

Tax is not my thing. But I work for a small tax and accounting office and I envision that I’ll stay there until the boss retires. It’s my choice and there are many good reasons for me to stay. On the plus side, I have flexibility—which is very important—and I don’t like titles much. I assist: Sometimes that means making coffee, finding files, doing light bookkeeping, keeping the office in order; and sometimes it means preparing simple tax returns when we have simple ones. The plus side, for me, of a small office is that I get to do a variety of tasks. The main thing I enjoy about my job is being able to be helpful in some way—that’s why assistant positions always appeal to me. I’m a behind the scene’s person and I like it that way.

In order to make my job more interesting, I try to get to know the people behind the numbers through their tax returns or other documents. Of course, I have to keep this all to myself and inside the office for the obvious reasons. The small tax office offers a variety of different tax and accounting services, and an area that I am beginning to find quite interesting is related to Trusts and Estates. The area I’m most interested in is not on the tax side, but on the procedural side. So I was thinking, if the boss decides to retire early or if scenarios occur, I think I might enjoy being an assistant in a small office that deals in writing Wills and Trusts for families. This has catapulted me into learning a little more on my own. I started by doing a search on my Kindle Reader and found three titles that sound promising:

Living Trusts for Everyone: Why a Will is Not the Way to Settle Your Estate.

By Ronald Farmington Sharp

Kiplinger’s Estate Planning: The Complete Guide to Wills, Trusts, and Maximizing Your Legacy.
By John Ventura

Dead Hands: A Social History of Wills, Trusts, and Inheritance Law.
By Lawrence Friedman

Just by reading the preface and table of contents of the first one and the introduction and table of the contents of the last two, I’m really looking forward to reading these. The last one sounds like a very interesting read.

I am also planning on taking a two night class in the near future called “Trusts & Estate Planning Made Simple.” I don’t know how simple it can be made, but I look forward to bringing my questions and getting an overview of the process. I also hope to at least skim enough of the books by then, so that I don’t come with a completely blank slate.  

A big motivation for me in this area comes from what I have witnessed around me, both positive and negative, of what can happen to a family if someone dies without some form of instrument, be it Will or Trust or both. It really touches a deep core in my soul because the process can be made more manageable with some planning. I’ve gleaned a little here and there, and now I hope to dive in and learn more, and perhaps I will land somewhere where I can help in some way, even if it’s behind the curtain.


keiko amano said...


That's a good idea. A lot of people need help on that. Long time ago, I bought such do-it-yourself book. I did follow some instruction, but it said I have to follow up once a year or something and need two eyewitnesses or something. I need to revisit.

Rebb said...

Keiko, That’s interesting about how the instruction book you have said you have to follow up once a year. The eyewitness part makes sense. Usually when you have very important and sensitive documents, one needs a witness and their signature.

Yes, I think it’s a good idea unless families don’t mind leaving it to the legal system. My grandmother and grandfather both died without Wills or any type of document to say what they wanted to happen. With my grandfather, no problem because my grandmother was still alive and no one came forward. When my grandmother died, my uncle had some problems. To make a long story short, he asked me and my brother’s to sign a document saying, we give up our rights to my grandmother’s house, thus allowing my uncle to inherit it. We all agreed, that it is what my grandmother would have wanted. Well, there were cousins involved, that sort of cut themselves off from the family and never showed up or visited or called my grandmother. They came out of nowhere when they found out my grandmother died. They decided they did not want to sign the house over to my uncle. They wanted the money. In California when someone dies without a will, it is called, dying intestate, which then means, the State intestancy code must be followed, which allowed the cousins to collect, even though my grandmother would not have wanted that. It was a difficult and long process and I helped my uncle by writing my thoughts down for his attorney who then put it into a counter claim document. In the end, my uncle was able to get the settlement amount down lower, but it was still a good chunk of money. And the process was not only long, but cost him money every time he needed to talk to his lawyer or meet with him in person.

In general, I wish that these types of things didn’t have to be so difficult. It bothers me that anything involving money can tear people apart. I’ve come to the point, where I would rather have peace of mind than money any day.

I guess also what stood out is that even if a dying person expresses their wishes verbally, as my grandmother, it just doesn’t matter unless you have it in writing. No one expects that someone will come forward and make the process difficult.

Rebb said...

I forgot to add the cousins did come to the funeral, but before that no contact. They seemed friendly at the funeral, so it was a shock that they did not want to cooperate. Oh well, such is life.

keiko amano said...


Thank you for writing your personal story. I think we can all relate to the story. It's similar in any countries, I think.

This is what I think. Love and money are separate. In Japanese we can write kanjo in two ways. One is 感情emotion, the other is 勘定calculation.
We tend to mix them and get in trouble. Old folks need all the help they can get, but in reality, only one or two main people can take care of them. And it takes more than love to care for dying people. It isn't easy task.

Rebb said...

Thank you, Keiko. I appreciate you sharing how you can write Kanjo in two ways. It seems logical and it does seem that these concepts get mixed up. Reality is reality and I agree it takes more than love and is no easy task. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.