Lessons Brought Home

Lessons Brought Home

I learned some lessons recently, which I would like to share. I grew up in Pocatello, Idaho, in a house on 12th Avenue, next door to my parents’ business, the Manning Funeral Home. Living with a funeral home next door, and being raised by its conscientious, caring owners, meant abiding by some unusual rules for children. While there was a funeral or viewing occurring next door, we could not play outside. My parents were often working next door, and if it appeared that the funeral home was not busy, we could enter through the side or back door to go see them, but running, yelling or shouting was never permitted. We could not touch the mortuary’s extension phone in our home. If, after hours, someone came to the house inquiring about a funeral, we were to refer to the deceased by name — Mr. or Mrs. so-and-so, not as “the deceased” or other reference. We children were repeatedly instructed that the families that needed our services were grieving, and they deserved upmost respect during this time. We children were to be very careful not to inadvertently interrupt their grieving.

 

Also, I am an estate planning attorney. I am always assisting families with the details of settling probate or trust estates after someone’s death. I often attend client funerals.

 

With this background of observing funerals and mourning close-up, I thought I knew a little something about grief. Then my father died. He passed on Fathers’ Day, June 15, 2014. I was both astounded and humbled by how little I knew. I was prepared for tears, sorrow, and an empty feeling. I was not as prepared for the mental strain. The fuzzy head. The extra time it took to complete anything.

 

I was extremely glad that there was very little to do concerning dad’s estate. The few things that needed to be addressed were such an annoyance when grieving required so much mental and emotional energy. Happily, a few years earlier, when my father began losing his abilities, we discussed him giving up (along with his car keys) his role as trustee of his revocable trust. Not that this was easy. It was hard on everyone. It required many discussions, over many months. The current benefit is worth the difficulty. The trust was essentially fully funded. The current trustees have been managing the trust assets for some years, so there is not a huge change. The to-do list is very manageable.

 

The lessons I am learning encourage me to help families more with the difficult transition of control over assets. When appropriate, I plan to share my experience with clients, especially my older clients. I hope to discuss and suggest that we make a projected transition timeline, with an objective, pre-set time at which shared control over trust assets is put into place. I hope many clients will view sharing control with the future successor trustee as a positive, educational time period, and that the involvement of the successor trustee will help achieve a fully funded trust, which will lead to a minimal to-do list at the passing of the grantor. I have a renewed appreciation that a minimal to-do list is a legacy of infinite value.

Sheryl J. Manning, PL.
1104 Ponce de Leon Blvd
Coral Gables, Fl 33134
(786) 804-3456 Direct Line
(305) 445-3721 Receptionist

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