Law News and Tips

Not What She Hoped For

Fred Vilbig - Monday, October 08, 2018



Fred L. Vilbig © 2018

     Joe (these are not the real names) came to see me about estate planning. He knew that he needed to do something, but he didn’t really know what. Sometimes you don’t even know what you don’t know, but at least he knew he needed to do something more.

     Some time ago, his wife, Leslie, decided she wanted to do some estate planning. She didn’t know any attorneys, but she had heard about online estate planning websites. She went to LegalZoom and liked what she saw. She thought she’d need a will, a general power of attorney, and a medical directive. So she worked those up, printed them, signed them in front of a notary, and she was done.

     But time can change things. Leslie had been a very intelligent person holding down an impressive job before she retired. After that, she started forgetting things – little things at first, but over time, more and more. She had trouble thinking through problems, big ones at first, but soon even the little stuff. She started making some bad decisions like going outside in a heavy coat in the heat of summer or wearing shorts outside in the depths of winter. Or she might just go outside and stand in the rain totally oblivious to it. If she had just had momentary, isolated lapses, that would’ve been one thing, but it all became the regular course of daily life. Joe knew something was wrong.

     He took Leslie to the doctor. The doctor confirmed Joe’s worst fears: it all pointed to Alzheimer’s. All of a sudden, Joe’s entire world, his future, was turned topsy-turvy.

     But Joe thought everything would be okay legally. After all, Leslie had prepared her legal documents. But Joe had heard about probate and trusts , so he called me to see if he needed to do something more to protect Leslie if he died first; after all, he was 80. He wanted to do everything he could to protect her. A good guy.

     He came to see me, and we discussed the situation. I recommended a trust to take care of Leslie and avoid probate. He liked the idea. We could set up a trust, and using Leslie’s power of attorney, Joe could transfer assets to the trust to avoid probate. So at least that much was covered. But there were still problems.

     Joe realized that when Leslie prepared the power of attorney and medical directive, she had not included any backups. She had only named Joe. Due to his age and health, Joe was very concerned about what would happen to Leslie if he died first. Since Leslie had not provided a backup, when Joe died, without a court order, no one could make living arrangements for her; no one could talk to a doctor about or make decisions regarding her medical needs; and no one could administer Joe’s large IRA for Leslie’s benefit.

     Joe’s only real option was to have Leslie judicially declared incompetent, get himself appointed as Leslie’s Guardian and conservator, and write a will identifying who should serve as successor guardians and conservatives. The court would be required to follow his suggestions, but it was the best he could do under the circumstances.

     So Joe was faced with the unenviable choice of having his beloved wife paraded into court to be declared incompetent (and incur the costs for that) or just hope that she died first. A terrible conundrum to say the least.

Contact Fred now about your situation. The first consultation is free. Or call him now at (314) 241-3963

Benefits of Moving to a New Home When a Loved One Passes

Fred Vilbig - Friday, October 05, 2018
By guest writer: Lucille Rosett from The Bereaved

Your loved one has passed away and your house is full of memories. At times, they are a comfort; at others, these memories serve as a reminder of the way thing were. You see your loved one’s clothing still hanging in the closet and momentarily forget they aren’t coming back for them. It’s a difficult situation and one that can make it harder to move on and actually heal. Moving into a new home can help you do just that while giving you a foundation upon which to build new memories.

Selling Your Home

The first step to selling your home is to find a professional realtor. Realtors take care of all the legal details so you don’t have to worry. A good realtor will evaluate your home and its market value. Realtors provide advice on how to stage your home so potential buyers will see it in the most positive light. Realtor Mag reports that “selling a home requires dozens of forms, reports, disclosures and other technical documents.” It’s easy for sellers to feel overwhelmed if they try to maneuver through the complicated process without expert assistance. Before listing your home, review home prices in your area. The median listing price for a home in St. Louis is $170,000.

Your Loved One’s Belongings

Letting go of your loved one’s belongings is one of the most difficult tasks you’ll be confronted with. At first, you may feel comforted when you open the closet and find your partner’s old jacket hanging there. Or perhaps it eases your pain when you find their favorite college sweatshirt folded in the drawer. But eventually, these items become a constant reminder that that part of your life is over. According to Next Avenue, “you begin to wonder if keeping all those objects around you is serving a purpose” or dragging out the grieving process.

When making the tough decision to let go of your loved one’s things, it’s important to hold onto only those that bring you happiness. The Tribune reports you should keep items that evoke beautiful memories and get rid of those with negative emotions attached to them. Instead of keeping your loved one’s clothing, cut pieces from them and create a quilt. Take photos of items to preserve in an album before removing them from your home. Donate gently used items to charity or give them to friends. Don’t feel like you have to rush the process. Sort through their personal effects when you are emotionally ready but don’t wait until the last minute.

Packing and Moving

Begin the packing process before you even find a buyer. This will give you enough time and prevent a great deal of stress. Consider hiring professional movers so you don’t have to worry about this enormous job when you’re still grieving for your loved one. Movers take almost all of the work out of your hands. Many moving companies will even do the packing for you. Moving heavy furniture and boxes can lead to injury if you don’t know what you’re doing. Call professionals who are accustomed to heavy lifting on a regular basis. While the packing service is boxing up your things, you can focus on other moving tasks such as setting up utilities or notifying the post office of your change of address.

When a loved one who shared your home passes away, being in the house without him or her is an emotional roller coaster. If your house has too many memories, it may be time for a change of scenery. Moving into a new home can help you deal with the grief of losing a loved one and provide you with the strength you need to start a new chapter in your life.