For those who don’t know what’s happened in my life this past year, it’s been a tough one. My mom passed away in April 2019. My siblings and I were tasked with the BIG job of selling the family home. It was an emotional process, clearing out 59 years of family life. With blood, sweat and tears, we gave the house a mini flip and some very needed updates before listing it for sale. I am launching a video series on my YouTube channel, called Flip Momma’s House, where I share the DIY tricks and hacks we used to get this house sold. It sold quickly and for a great price, more than we expected when we started our flip. I know many of you will face this same project someday. I hope my series will support you in closing your family’s estate with less stress and more financial security.
In flipping the house, we were faced with one of the biggest projects of all, clearing out the stuff! Especially, paper, paper and more paper. This was one of our most time-consuming tasks. It was truly overwhelming. Mom had not kept good records as she got older. She kept too many documents and receipts that were not needed. The important things were not neatly organized. I know my mom was not the only person out there in the same situation. It may be you. It may be your loved one.
Many of us fail to get our things in order because we don’t want to face the inevitable. I totally get it. No one wants to think about their own mortality. But please, I beg you. Get your stuff in order. Do it for your kids, your spouse, your siblings. Do it out of love. Do it out of compassion. When you are gone, you won’t know it but your people will suffer more stress because you avoided this task. The process of burying a loved one is hard enough but settling an estate without any direction is unnecessary.
In my first FLIP MOMMA’S HOUSE video segment, I talk about the various stages of clear out. Papers, furniture, sentimental things and the personal items. I shared the resources we used to donate, sell and re-purpose a whole house full of stuff. Watch below and subscribe while you are visiting my YouTube channel.
Aside from the house stuff, let’s chat about the really important matters you need to discuss with your peeps. Here is a list of the documents we really wish we had when mom went to the hospital and passed away days later.
Living Will – a legal document listing your medical care wishes in the event you cannot speak for yourself. Here you list if you want to be kept alive via specific medical interventions – dialysis, ventilation, feeding tubes etc. You can choose a DNR – do not resuscitate option. This is deeply personal, but it needs to be considered and shared so your last days are lived on your terms.
Medical Power of Attorney – a legal document that designates one person to make medical decisions for you if you cannot communicate for yourself. This person can use your Living Will as a guide in decision making.
Financial Power of Attorney – a legal document that designates one person to handle your financial matters if you are not mentally or physically able to pay your bills, make investments, close accounts etc.
Will – a legal document that identifies the person to execute your wishes for distribution of assets and it lists your bequests for your possessions. The absence of a will can sometimes leave a family dealing with the state in disputes over assets or sadly fighting amongst one another.
Deed – proof of ownership for property. If home is mortgaged, leave copy of mortgage commitment on file.
Title – prove of ownership of vehicles. If car is not paid off, leave copy of car loan information on file.
Life insurance policy– proof of eligibility for life insurance claim. Likely the source of funding for funeral expenses.
File of bank account numbers – at least one annual statement of each bank account so monies can be gathered and added to the estate total value .
Tax records – keep recent annual tax filings and copy of paid local property and school taxes. We had to dig through old check books to make sure we were not missing any tax deadlines.
Ideally keep these items in a lock box or safe. Better yet a fireproof one! Be sure someone has the key to access it.
Our family struggled going through every box of paper we found. Mom did not have that file of important papers. It was like playing a game of Where’s Waldo aka where’s a Wells Fargo statement. There was no will, no deed, no life insurance policy, at least not any we found. A few weeks ago, we got a tax statement from an investment mom had for a small life insurance policy. If it wasn’t for that W-9, we would never have known she had money in an account. How unfortunate would it be if you saved your money for your loved ones and they never got it? We have to organize these things now because we can’t tell them where to find it when we’re gone!
After mom passed, we found a note she wrote stating she did not want to be put on a ventilator. We knew that but she never made it legal nor gave it to her doctors. The living will is a critical document. Please write yours and ask your family for a copy of theirs. Give copies to doctors, lawyer and family members.
I don’t mean to be morbid talking about this end of life stuff. It’s just that sometimes DIY goes beyond home repairs and falls into the “living life on my terms” and “ending life on my terms “category. Some folks will not want to do this work. It is a hard topic but it is certainly a gift to your family if you do.
I am all about the power of knowledge. Here is an excellent article about how to talk to family about death and dying from Psychology Today. I hope it may help you spark the conversation that needs to happen if it hasn’t yet. If you have not had to deal with the loss of a loved one, count your blessings. I hope this info helps you all have a better understanding of what you may encounter when that time comes.
The next part of Flip Momma’s House will be about that dated 1960’s bathroom! Budget friendly ideas to update it modestly.