Death, Executor, and Grief

Hello, sorry in advance for a rambly post. Hope it makes sense.

Im a long term poster / user of MSE, just using an AE for the purposes of privacy.

My lovely Dad died suddenly late last year, and I am the sole executor of his estate. Its not an overly difficult estate - it is infact very small in monetary terms; but there are issues surrounding selfish and greedy relatives who've helped themselves to his valuables; and outstanding debts and bills which may not be settled through the sale of his house. I cant go into it here, save to say I'm worried sick about it all, and I just want to do it right for his sake.

Beyond that, what on earth do you do about grief? I'm floored by it on a daily basis. I'm good at my game face, and being professional for the 'world at large' but in private, when I wake at 4am, when I sit late at night sifting through the last of his belongings - the minutae of his life, when I drive to and from anywhere, when I go shopping, when I've cleaned his house of every last trace of him, when I long to ring him and say -"Dad, please help cos I dont know what to do next" - I'm a sobbing mess. I actually want to howl.

It hurts in my throat all the time and I have to remember to breathe sometimes when Im trying to hold it together - but I have so much to do, and I need to do it right. He made me his executor because he knew I'd get it done. I don't think he'd have dreamt of the greed of others though, and I'm utterly overcome at times. How on earth do you do a good job of being an executor whilst grieving for the most important person you've lost?

If anyone has any advice, any at all, I'd be so grateful.

Thank you
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Replies

  • dancingfairydancingfairy Forumite
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    Gosh, it's horrible how grief and death can bring out the worst in people isn't it? I can't believe that your relatives are adding to your stress :(
    Is there anyone close in the family (that's not greedy and selfish) that you could lean on at all?
    It's kind of early days yet as well from what it sounds like and sorting through all the things as well and trying to organise doesn't help. I don't think there is a magic wand but just trying to be kind to yourself and taking time. Time and patience I think. I think people find their own ways to cope as well and it hits everybody in different ways and at different times.
    Try and remember all the happy times together as well.
    If several months down the line you find you're still really struggling then maybe ask your GP for some counselling.
    Best Wishes
    df
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  • whitewingwhitewing Forumite
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    I remember after 9/11, hearing that one of the people who died had left a message for his wife, saying 'whatever you do is fine by me'. I am sure your dad would say the same, he trusts you to do your best in the time you have available. He won't be expecting you to do a perfect job.
    :heartsmil When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with glad cries of "Me too!" be sure to cherish them. Because these weirdos are your true family.
  • 3v33v3 Forumite
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    ..... He made me his executor because he knew I'd get it done. I don't think he'd have dreamt of the greed of others though, and I'm utterly overcome at times. How on earth do you do a good job of being an executor whilst grieving for the most important person you've lost?
    ....
    I think, he made you his executor because he did indeed know about the greed of others ;) He trusted you!

    It is totally "normal" to feel overwhelmed at times; there is much to be done, you have emotions flying all over the place. It is an emotionally, and physically, draining time.

    But! I will say this: all the while you are focussing on your duties as an executor, you are carrying out an act of love for your father where his needs/wishes come first. It is the greatest act of love you can offer. Not simply because it is so "finalistic" in its nature, but, because you do have to push your own feelings to the side in order to carry them out!

    I wish I had known in advance about those 4am moments where the grief is so very overwhelming, it is almost physical! I wish someone could have prepared me for the vast hole, which felt almost visible, in the centre of my chest due to the grief/longing/regret/misery/loneliness of it all. But, even if someone had pre-warned me, it wouldn't have prepared me for it.

    I cannot take away your responsibilities (nor would you want me to ;) ); I cannot take aware the waves of grief which will consume you from time to time and may feel totally inconsolable. But, I can assure you, it is normal.

    I can promise you that, given time, the ferocity of those feelings will subside until you can bare to say his name, touch his belongings, bring forth a memory without being consumed with emotion.

    Being an executor is more than a duty, or a responsibility. It is actually an honour - even if it doesn't feel like that right now: he gave you this responsibility because he trusted you! He loved you. He knew you could do it; he knew you would do it and he knew you would do it with dignity, honour and do him proud.

    How do you do both? You take one step at a time; you take one day at a time; when it all becomes overwhelming and you think you can't do/take/give anymore ... you take it one moment at a time! Because ... that is all you can do! And no one expects any more from you than just that ((hugs))

    Deep breaths. Draw upon your inner most strength to deal with the practicalities; release yourself into the grief you feel at 4am and let it flow ... it is not something to run from, nor indulge in; but it is how we deal with such a close loss and so you should run with it: it is ok to grieve!

    If it should become all consuming and you feel you cannot face another moment of it ... do go and speak with your GP. It doesn't make you weak, or unworthy, or anything else for that matter. It means, you are normal and trying to cope with a lot on your plate.

    ((hugs))
  • madbadrobmadbadrob Forumite
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    Sorry for your loss but to make you feel at ease a little once the house sale as gone through you can pay whatever debts there are in equal amounts from the estate and then that is your commitment dealt with. Dont worry about it too much and take your time there is no limits at which you have to do this. If you want to stop the greedy relatives and if they have keys to the house change the locks

    Rob
  • getmore4lessgetmore4less Forumite
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    The grief never goes but time heals, I am 2y and 3y from my parent deaths and life is a bit easier but it still hits I have a set of boxes in my garage that will need sorting and some of this is childhood history that is going to be very hard to deal with.

    We still have estate issues because we let solicitor have a go at a simple estate.
    At least you have the control even though it is hard to deal with some people you do stuff in your time some stuff does not have to be done today.

    One thing I did very soon after the second death was get away for a week to a very neutral but familiar(holiday place) environment where no one knew except my partner(no kids to look after).
    It does not fix anything but gives time without the daily issues.

    If the estate has issues you need to get help especialy if it will need assets recovering to meet liabilities.
  • troubleinparadisetroubleinparadise Forumite
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    Dear AE January 2013

    I'm sorry to hear about your sudden loss of your dad at the end of the year.

    What you've written about is grief - that is just what bereavement feels like, pure and simple. It is a shock, it is an enormous loss, and it takes a long time for our brains and bodies to process - longer than we'd think, longer than we'd like.

    There is no time scale, nor any right nor wrong. We each feel it differently and will take our own personal path to coping.

    If you feel you need help, that it is overwhelming, then do go to see your GP, or perhaps think about some bereavement counselling.

    Add into that the pressure of the logistics of dealing with a death, the paperwork, the personal effects, the upset of others' odd behaviours, and it is very challenging. But keep plodding through the tasks, and you will reach the other side of that. Your dad must have felt confident that you would do right by him, and that you were up to the job. In many ways it's the last act of caring we can do for someone we've lost. But seeing their handwriting, holding their belongings, their treasures, it does hurt.... :(
  • My lovely Dad died two years ago today and I never thought the grief would ease but it honestly does. You just have to give it time.
  • bylromarhabylromarha Forumite
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    Sorry for your loss. It's crap, aint it?

    I lost my mum in November and sorting through the house is crap. Dealing with greedy annoying people is crap. Having those freak out moments over stupid things in Tesco and hearing a song on the radio which bring memories flooding back is crap. Having days where you feel so overwhelmed and you have to sit in the car outside work for 15 minutes to compose yourself before going in is crap. Having people around you moan about trivial things is crap.

    I am so grateful that my sister and I are walking through this together - I don't know what I'd do without her telling me she gets these moments too. If you're an only child, or having to fight a sibling too, it must be so hard without someone telling you what you're experiencing is normal.

    Take each day as a new one. If you still wake up and you have that second of normality before the heavyness kicks in, try to turn it to a happy memory of your dad.

    And its okay to howl. It hurts. A lot. Howling can be healthy. But would your dad want you to howl about missing him more than he would want you to remember all those many happy memories that he made for you?

    As for sorting the finances - take each day as it comes. Dealing with the debt in an estate is hard, I agree. But try not to let it get you - the banks will not chase you for money that he owed. I'm dealing with it using a long to do list and crossing each one out as I deal with it and no longer need to worry about it. Again, crap, but its the last thing I can do for mum. Do it properly and follow her wishes and stand up to the grabbing relatives with a strength she never found.

    All the best OP.
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  • My lovely Dad died two years ago today and I never thought the grief would ease but it honestly does. You just have to give it time.

    Two years for me too, last week.
    Yes, AE-Jan, it's tough. Hugs to you. Grief affects different people differently. I was very sad going through Dad's things as the Executor, but more overwhelmingly depressed with recognising the ongoing loss in my life at about 11 months, coming up to the first anniversary. Now at two years, the memories can still be triggered by the smallest things, like seeing his favourite biscuits in the supermarket, but those moments are few and it's much easier now. Time heals.

    Cruse are the experts for talking to in bereavement:
    http://www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk/

    It must be very troubling to know what to do about the people who've 'appropriated' items. They have, in fact, stolen from the Estate. Ideally, you should have taken charge straightaway and insisted that no-one else should enter the property or remove anything from it. Not easy in families where several people have keys, I know.

    I think the very least I would do is write to them (and possibly ALL members of the family) in a general sense explaining that in your role as Executor you are gathering in all the assets of the Estate and you have been unable to locate Val1 Val2, Val3 <list the items you know are 'missing', even if you know damn well who actually has them!>. If anyone has taken these items for safekeeping, they should be returned to you as the the Executor. You could consider instructing a solicitor to write this letter, though if the Estate is going to be insolvent at the end of the process, you may end up covering the cost of this yourself.

    I was going to suggest that you spell out the importance of having all the assets collected, as the debts/bills on the Estate are so high and need to be met. But on second thoughts this would be meaningless to the sort of people who've taken things. The fact that the assets would disappear into paying debts would possibly re-inforce their view that they were right to take them to 'keep them in the family'!

    At least then you know you're taking some steps to do things correctly.

    Assuming this process doesn't lead to the return of the items, would I take it a step further and write again more forcefully? That only 'I' as the Executor have the responsibility and the right to deal with the Estate and other people taking things have in fact stolen from the Estate. Yes, I think I would. Even if I am not going to involve the police, and there will be no further consequences, I think that the stealing needs to be stated. At the end of the day, after such an experience, I am very unlikely to want to have anything to do with these people again.

    I guess any further action would depend whether the value of the stolen items will make a significant difference to the solvency of the Estate.
    If the Estate is in fact insolvent, then no benficiaries are going to get what your father intended them to have anyway, so it is possibly not worth pursuing further.

    If the Estate is in fact insolvent, there is nothing for the Executor to distribute and you could in fact decline to act as Executor. You could, in theory, leave it for anyone who is owed a substantial amount to apply to administer the Estate, as only those people/organisations have a real interest in the Estate. There are some other threads on this forum about insolvent Estates; I understand much of the guidance for Executors doesn't cover this situation very well.

    But in practice you'll want to do what your Dad wanted, and SOMEONE has got to organise the sale of the house ....

    But eventually, will you feel angry that your Dad has given you this extremely difficult task : an insolvent/near insolvent estate? When there are difficult relatives who may tip it into insolvency by their stealing?

    My thoughts and comments are meandering, as it's such a difficult situation. Hope others might be able to help in a more focussed way.
  • cte1111cte1111 Forumite
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    My Dad died last year and I was his executor too. I think it is normal, kind of right, to feel like you do. Your Dad has gone and you miss him and his help.

    In terms of the executor role, having done this previously for my Aunt, then for my Dad, I found it easier emotionally to deal with everything in writing rather than phoning. I found actually saying over and over "XXX has died" was very hard, where as writing a formal letter was one step removed. It also meant I didn't have to deal with the awkwardness of the person on the other end not knowing what to say, or having to hold for ages whilst they tried to find someone who did know what to do.

    Grief does get easier in the end, doesn't mean it's a linear process though, some days are worse and some better, but gradually it will ease. In a year's time you can hopefully start to heal. Keep going, but allow yourself to feel emotional, to cry and ask other people for support too.
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