Hope me please. Thanks.
March 26, 2008 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Okay, soooo... my dad just died. And I need to know how to handle myself and take care of my best interests.

I'm about to hop in the car to drive to San Diego. My uncle is holding the fort for the moment, with my sister about to swoop on the scene so I need to get there soon. When I arrive there, what to I need to be thinking about? How can I make this easier for everyone? How can I make this less stressful for myself so that I can handle it with as much calmness and dignity as possible? Honestly, right now I'm just a bawling mess wishing I could've had a better last phone call with him and being super sad that he died alone. I know I had a good relationship with him and stuff though, so I need to shake it off and be a grown up.

He was 75, owns some property in California and a plot of land in Nevada, I don't know what else I should say really. I just know that I'm not good with finances and legal junk (let alone my dad dying) and I'm sure there are all sorts of things I should be preparing myself for. Also I have one sister, and whether I like it or not I have to accept that she has an existing pattern of being untrustworthy and money driven in general, and adversarial with me since birth. So I've been dreading this day and I told my dad as much. He told me that he put things into a trust with my uncle as executor, but I don't know how these things work really. I don't have any interest in engaging in any kind of sibling war, I just want things to be amicable and fair (especially since she has houses in his name and I haven't borrowed any money from him until recently, really). I just don't want drama, and my sister's middle name is drama. If it could be her first and last name too I'm sure she'd have it changed.

Sigh. I don't like today very much. Understatement of the year.
posted by miss lynnster to Law & Government (48 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
My advice is that you allow yourself some time to grieve before you worry about the money thing, which you probably shouldn't worry too much about anyway if your uncle is the executor.
posted by MegoSteve at 11:01 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry to hear it, miss lynnster! I don't have any advice except to keep calling friends so you can keep your perspective while you're in the middle of it. Ugh. I'm so sorry.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:07 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Truest sympathies, Miss Lynnster. Take care of yourself, and give yourself time to grieve separately from the time you'll need to sort out the financial/legal stuff. As far as those go, perhaps it would be a good idea to find and ask these questions of a lawyer in CA?
posted by ellF at 11:08 AM on March 26, 2008

miss lynnster, so sorry for your loss. Your near term goals re: family should just be to try to grieve and to help comfort one another. Don't worry about the money and the fairness right now. Give your sister a lot of room, and every time she gets you up on your hind legs, remember that she just lost her Dad and try to give her the benefit of the doubt. There will be time enough later to work things out financially, with all the potential drama that may entail. However, it sounds like your Dad was thinking of you guys when he set up his affairs. Be glad it's your uncle and not you who has to deal with all that.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:10 AM on March 26, 2008

Miss Lynnster--I am so sorry for your loss. My dad died quite awhile ago and I still get pangs of missing him. It sounds like your dad took care of the financial side of things by creating the trust and naming your uncle executor, so don't fret about the money issues. That was a really great gift he gave you as it should mitigate the potential for drama.

You need to focus on taking care of yourself. Be especially careful on the drive to SD--you'll likely be distracted and not as vigilant as you might normally be--so really take great care to pay attention to the road. If you have a friend who can go with and drive, that would be best.

Use the time during the drive to remember your Dad. Think about how you'd like to honor his memory and what you might want to say during his funeral or memorial. Focus on how you'd like to behave and what you'd like to bring to this occasion and what you'll take away. Don't worry about others, they will handle things well or badly and that shouldn't be your concern.

Remember lots of folks will want to help, but may not be very good at it. Try to appreciate the love behind the gestures even if they are not what you need at the moment.

My best to you.
posted by agatha_magatha at 11:11 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry for your loss. I can't help a lot, but the one thing that may be helpful to know is that the mortuary will ask all sorts of questions for the death certificate, like city and county where he was born, mother's maiden name, stuff like that that you may not remember off the top of your head when you're stressed. You'll also need to order some copies of the death certificate for various agencies, like banks etc. (I've had 4 family members die in the past 18 months so I should remember which agencies, but I don't.) We ordered about 4 death certificates to have on hand when they were needed, and we ended up using them all.

I guess my main advice would be to take notes when you talk to anyone like lawyers or funeral directors so that you know what needs to be done, because you won't remember anything five minutes later. Since your uncle is executor, you probably won't have to do much. But you might want to get a copy of the trust and make sure he does what your father wanted him to do, and so there aren't any surprises.
posted by doubtful_guest at 11:14 AM on March 26, 2008

yes, give yourself time to grieve. don't worry about making things easier for other people. that's what more distant relatives and friends are for.

as for the money thing, don't worry about it right now. that's what the lawyers are for. they'll handle it. they can't fix an unfair division that's built into the will, but they can help you guys negotiate any fuzzy areas. my only advice, from personal experience, is to not let this destroy you. it's true she may end up getting an unfair amount, and you have to decide how much you will let this bother you. it's amazing how much this can drive people apart, so just be aware of it. oftentimes the money seems to stand in for love, and so arguments about money quickly devolve into arguments about things everyone should have addressed in therapy twenty years ago. as for me, i chucked everything i could have inherited from my grandparents, even though i wanted it, back into the communal pile for the vultures to pick over and walked away. and i'm glad i did. i have nothing to remember my grandparents by except pictures, but the alternative--the fighting--was worse.

i'm so sorry for your loss. do take care of yourself.
posted by thinkingwoman at 11:18 AM on March 26, 2008

So sorry to hear this. Sometimes it actually helps to have a lot to do - and there is going to be a lot to do. As for the will/trust stuff, you'll need to contact your father's lawyer about that. In the meantime, there are other things to be dealt with:

1. Death certificates. You're going to need a bunch of copies of these so go ahead and get a lot. You'll need to send one out to pretty much every creditor, insurance, etc.

2. Funeral arrangements, memorial services, cremation, burial. You'll need to decide what your dad's wishes were and/or what you and your sister want to do. A good funeral home can help a lot here.

3. Notifications. Y'all will have to figure out who you need to call to break the news. Relatives, friends, etc. Alumni associations. Clubs. Which brings me to

4. Obituary. I've written two obituaries now - one for my father, one for a man who was a second father to me. I found it really healing in a way - I recommend it. The local paper will probably have fairly strict guidelines as to number of words, etc., and having those in place helps with the writing.

5. Tracking the condolence notes and flowers and stuff. Eventually you'll have to acknowledge them.

6. And then, there are casserole dishes and all the pies and whatnot that people drop off; food to be put out, food to be put away and cleaned up and so on. Label the containers as they come in if they're not already labelled so you can return them in a week or so.

I can't think of anything else offhand but I know there's more. Take care of yourself. You'll be busier than you can imagine for a little while; expect sudden breakdowns and tears but the hardest part for me is when the business is over. Give yourself space to grieve and cut yourself a lot of slack for a long time after this.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:19 AM on March 26, 2008 [9 favorites]

Mostly what's important when a family member dies, in my experience, is just being there for the other family members. You don't have to know what to do. Everyone is shell-shocked at a time like this. Just hold onto each other. If you can bear to talk about him, memories are good to share with each other, too.

I'm so sorry.
posted by misha at 11:20 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

My condolences, Miss Lynnster. Remember to take care of yourself first in this situation - don't forget to eat, rest when you can, have some time by yourself to work through things in your own way.

As far as your sister's concerned, my own sister is selfish and money-grabbing to the extreme, so I empathise. I'd suggest you try not to be alone with her, as this will reduce the opportunities for her to engage with you. Try, if it's possible, to reduce any opportunities for her to talk to your uncle alone too. If she starts talking about your father's estate, say: "I really don't think now is the time to discuss this..." and leave it at that. Refuse to discuss it further.

And now is not the time to discuss it. Now is the time for you to grieve your dad. I'm assuming you'll be involved in arrangements, so think about some music or readings that were meaningful to or representative of him for his memorial. Talk to people who knew him about him, share anecdotes, good times, memories.

As others have said, the legal and financial stuff should be discussed (later on) first with your uncle and then with a lawyer, preferably the one who drew up your dad's will.
posted by essexjan at 11:24 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well, here's another thing... the last conversation I had with him was unfortunately about me trying to deal with back taxes I owe. They IRS has gotten pretty nasty with me because I owe a hefty chunk. So I know the IRS is going to be very interested in whatever inheritance I'm getting.

I don't want to care about the money but I know I need to, because if I don't pay the IRS off asap they're going to take initiative to go after the inheritance themselves I think. What should I do?
posted by miss lynnster at 11:25 AM on March 26, 2008

Miss Lynnster, my deepest sympathies. My mother passed in early January, so I've some recent experience with this.

The first thing I will tell you is a bit of advice that a good friend gave to me after my mom passed: What you're feeling now, and what you will be feeling over the next few days and weeks? It gets better, even though it might not seem like that at the moment. I took comfort in knowing that it would get better, because it really sucked for a while.

The other piece of advice I can give you from my recent experience is that you need to take time to grieve. For the next few days, during the wake, funeral, etc you are going to feel like you have to play host. My mom's 2-night wake almost felt like 3 family reunions in one: my mom's side of the family, my dad's side, and all our friends in the neighborhood. A lot of those people I hadn't seen in nearly 15 years, and it was a little overwhelming to greet and be somewhat social with all of them. By the end of it, I was completely exhausted. The afternoon of the burial, I went back to my hotel room, and slept for 15 hours straight. So, be there for your family and friends who will be there for you, but also take the time to be there for yourself, even if it means blowing off the world for a while.

And DON'T worry about the legal/financial drama bullshit. You can deal with that later. This is a time to mourn. Come back in a few weeks and blow another AskMe when it comes up - you know people here will help, but believe me when I tell you that you're going to be overwhelmed enough over the next few days and weeks, and now is not the time for you to worry about it.

Take care of yourself.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:27 AM on March 26, 2008

miss lynnster, I'm so sorry about your dad.

Right now you don't need to do anything. I'd talk to a tax attorney, of course, about issues with the IRS vis a vis any inheritance. Regarding any arrangements your dad may have made, just don't even deal with them right now. You may have to make another trip to sit down with your sister and your uncle at some later date, but now is not the time, either emotionally or legally. My mother's will was not settled for several months due to medical bills, and that was probably for the best-- by the time I had to deal with it I was a little more rational. Furthermore, she also died really close to tax time; needless to say we hadn't dealt with her taxes at all, which was blessing as it helped us to delay it even further, giving us even more distance from the emotional shock.

Right now, don't sign anything, don't agree to anything verbally or g-dforbid in writing. Take your time. Again, a tax lawyer can probably tell you how long you can wait before you *have* to deal with this stuff.
posted by nax at 11:32 AM on March 26, 2008

Miss Lynnster, I'm really sorry for your loss and will be thinking of you.

I don't have much advice either, unfortunately... in fact, I nearly posted a similar question the other day (it is very likely I will be losing my father to cancer within the next couple years, and I have no idea how to deal), so I'll be following this thread as well. The one thing that's helped me the most so far has been my parents telling me explicitly, "Take care of yourself and make that your highest priority. There is nothing that we want more from you than that." That'd be my advice to you as well.

I'd also recommend spending as much time with good friends and the family members you like as you possibly can. Minimize your alone time for the next few weeks. Physically having someone you like in the same room with you can really help, no matter what you're doing or even if you're not doing anything.

Not sure if that helps, but I sincerely hope it does.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:34 AM on March 26, 2008

So very sorry for your loss, Miss Lynnster. In regards to the IRS, believe it or not they're usually very cooperative, despite those threatening letters they send. If you phone your local IRS office (after all the funeral stuff is finished, of course) and make an appointment to talk to a representative, they're usually very happy to work out a payment plan with you. No, I don't work for the IRS, but I once owed them a huge chunk of change and originally dealt with it by ignoring their correspondence. But once I got over my fear and finally spoke to someone locally, they arranged a monthly payment plan that I could afford. It will be quite a while before your father's financial affairs are sorted out and any forms describing money left behind will reach the IRS, so you don't have to worry about that for the time being.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:42 AM on March 26, 2008

Miss Lynnster, I'm so sorry to hear the news. Please take care of yourself and drive extra carfully.

I know it's easy to fixate on things when you're under stress but for right now, today, the money does not matter.

The IRS will take what it takes and that's not changing as a result of whatever you may inherit unless something unusual is going on. The inheritance will likely take a while to churn through the system. If your dad left your uncle in charge then he's really going to be the person who is going to mediate whatever back and forth you and your sister have over money. This will pretty much assure that her odd temperment is not going to make this a huge mess.

If you had a good relationship with your dad, that's a wonderful thing and I hope gives you some level of comfort as you're dealing with a lot of family stuff and a lot of personal emotions and a lot of expectations that (and I'm projecting somewhat here) may feel a little burdensome. You're under a lot of stress even if you don't feel that way right up front. Try to be kind to yourself and kind to others and back burner the legal/financial stuff until a) you have more information and b) this is a little more in the past. If other people try to suck you into it (like your sister) you are perfectly within your rights to not discuss it with them this week, or until you are ready.
posted by jessamyn at 11:43 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

First off - my sincerest condolences, a great big hug, and an extra kleenex. I'm so sorry.

My only other contribution to this question is a recommendation to simply let other people help. Good intentioned friends and family will be telling you repeatedly that "if there's anything they can do, just ask". When you're dealing with all of this, its hard, if not impossible, to come up with specific tasks at the moment. Thats okay. But when you're in the middle of both dealing with your grief and trying to get everything that needs to be straighted out, and then all of a sudden realize you need someone to walk the dog, you need to drop something off at the post office, and dammit, why is there never any kleenex when you need it?!? -- thats when you can call on your support system. They'll be more than willing to help, and it might just take a tiny bit of burden off your shoulders. Ask the next well intentioned friend that comes by, or just pick up the phone and call someone.
posted by cgg at 11:44 AM on March 26, 2008

Hi there Miss Lynnster,

I'm so sorry about your dad. I lost my mom almost seven years ago and I'll tell you one thing that I only recently learned but didn't understand from the beginning: this is not something you get over; this is something you learn to live around. Kind of like losing, say, your index finger. Now how are you going to pick up your coffee mug? Well, you will, you just need to learn to do it in a different way and live around the missing digit. I'm not saying your dad is like a missing finger. What I mean is that grieve all you need and remember that you don't need to "get over" this, just learn how to live with that hole in your heart. The best medicine for that is friends and family, even just knowing that they're there when you want to be alone is good.

Having your uncle as the executor is great. That makes life much easier. You should have a few copies of the death certificate for oddball things, but luckily, you don't need to run from lawyer to lawyer trying to untangle anything. A will determines who gets what and it takes a little bit for the estate courts to release everything, but you'll eventually get a check or a deed or what have you with little actual busywork on your end.

Slow down, breathe deeply, take a friend on the roadtrip (great advice!), and tell yourself you can deal with the tax stuff later, so that you don't worry about it now.

And know that everyone here at mefi is thinking of you.
posted by cachondeo45 at 11:45 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

[a hug] chin up.
posted by not_on_display at 11:56 AM on March 26, 2008

My deepest condolences, miss lynnster.

mygothlaundry's checklist covers everything I can think of; I'm going to nth everyone else and say, don't worry too much about that end of things quite yet - there will likely be some period of probate (IANAexpert in CA inheritance law), where nothing much happens.

When my mom died, I managed, with the help of friends (I'm an only child, my dad was already dead) to keep it together enough to deal with funeral arrangements, but not much else for several weeks. I think. Memories from then are kind of blurry. People will bring you food - eat even if you don't feel hungry, if it's been a while since you ate. People will offer to help, but the offers may be nonspecific and you may not be in any shape to tell them what to do. That's okay. Tell them thank you, and you'll let them know.

so I need to shake it off and be a grown up.

Be gentle with yourself. If there's ever a time when you need a parent, it's when a parent dies. It's okay to be a bawling mess, or numb, or irritable, or really feel anything that you need to feel. I ended up nearly crying in inappropriate places a few times, and I found that breathing very deeply and mentally saying "Not now, not now," helped. But sometimes I just cried in weird places (grocery store, bus), and let it go.

posted by rtha at 11:57 AM on March 26, 2008

Miss Lynnster, you have my sympathies and condolences on your loss. I want to echo what jessamyn says: The money does not matter, not right now.

Speaking from experience, there may be a wait of some weeks to get the death certificate; perhaps California is faster than where I live, I don't know. Your uncle and the lawyer who handles the estate might be able to do very much until they actually have the death certificate. It quite likely could take months for the distribution of assets to be determined, and for you or your sister or the IRS to receive anything. That's what happened after my mother died, with a simple estate here in Texas, where we have fast and easy probate courts...

For now, allow yourself to grieve. Talk if you need to talk. Be quiet if you need to be quiet. Listen to music if it helps. Be alone. Be with others. The next few days, weeks even, will be like nothing you've ever experienced. You may find reactions and emotions welling up that surprise you. Or you may not. Take it as it comes, focus on yourself, and on your family.

Take care.
posted by Robert Angelo at 12:08 PM on March 26, 2008

I am so sorry for your loss. Really, for the next week or three, mygothlaundry's checklist will be all you need to worry about. Aside from any bills that are due in order to keep the utilities on (or properly closed, which is generally not do-able until you have the death certificate, which will be at least 10 days or closer to a month) where applicable, there's months if not a year or more before any theoretical money becomes real money.

Even in a perfectly-ordered estate, like my grandmother's, the wheels turn slowly. She died last May and the house still isn't sold, and so there is still an estate and no disbursements.

The first advice my mother gives: Don't be afraid to turn phones off so you can sleep or at least try to sleep, for the next several days. It just doesn't stop ringing. Ditto the doorbell - hang up a note.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:10 PM on March 26, 2008

One thing to keep in mind about the money stuff is that whatever happens is going to leave you better off. You get some money, however much it turns out to be. Maybe the IRS takes it all, or some -- at least that's less debt to the IRS. Maybe it's not as much as it might have been in some other world, but it's still more than zero.

The only thing I noticed is to make sure that your uncle knows that there are houses out there that are totally? in part? in your dad's name but that in some way are your sister's. Dealing with them is his problem, but you might just be sure that he knows what his problem is.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:13 PM on March 26, 2008

I'm so sorry.

My only advice is to think about how you are going to feel, several years from now, if, looking back, your strongest memory of your dad's death is getting the inheritance in order and protecting it from your sister. Don't let that happen to you.

If you can before you leave for San Diego, get some pictures of your dad together to put up at the funeral home. Recent ones and ones from a long time ago, if you have them. Think about how you'd like the service to go, and whether you want to ask anyone to speak. Honor your dad now, deal with your sister later.

I'm not saying that you should tell your sister that you are not interested in talking about inheretance issues or whatever, just that you can tell her that the most important thing for now is the funeral. And there's always the possibility that your sister is really hurting, too -- she may be really scared now if she has relied on your dad in a childlike way until now, and really uncertain about what will happen to her now, so try to be there for her if you can.

My sincerest condolences to you. Be brave!
posted by onlyconnect at 12:20 PM on March 26, 2008

I've got nothing to help you with the AskMe, but know that we are all thinking of you in this time of grief. I'm sorry.
posted by Doohickie at 12:27 PM on March 26, 2008

I am so sorry, hon.

Lean on your other relatives..that's what they are there for. All the rest will work itself out. It takes time for the legal stuff to sort itself out-so take this time to simply deal with the grieving.
posted by konolia at 12:43 PM on March 26, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you all for your condolences. Really. It's appreciated.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:13 PM on March 26, 2008

You may be called on to play host. If this gets to be too much or you're feeling claustrophobic take some time to go for a walk or get out of the house.

It gets better eventually. Take care.
posted by Bunglegirl at 1:25 PM on March 26, 2008

I'm very sorry for your loss.
posted by cazoo at 1:28 PM on March 26, 2008

When I arrive there, what to I need to be thinking about?

Do you have friends nearby, in San Diego? Call'em up and ask for a shoulder to lean on. It might be good to ask if you can stay with them, so you have a "safe" place to return at night and can get a bit of alone time to recharge, especially in light of one of your previous questions, where you're often the primary caretaker. This isn't meant as an insult or "change your life now", simply that you're hurting too and need some caretaking of your own, so look into that, in order to be there for your family.

Once you're at the house, this may sound silly, but figure out what the food situation is. Seriously, ya'll are going to be stressed, grieving and worrying about everything BUT taking care of yourselves and ya'll will need your strength. Find a caterer and have stuff sent over, so you guys dont' have to worry about cooking or eating whatever crap you find in the house or fast food.

I just don't want drama,

Yeah I've been there and done and what I found worked was simply to not take part in it. Sometimes this meant that things didn't go like I wanted them to or thought they should with arrangements or this or that, but that's ok, 'cause you're emotionally raw right now and don't need a battle, even a small one. If drams does start, just beg it off, saying you're still torn up and need to think about it later or simply "Whatever you think is best" Take heart in that you had a good relationship you with your dad and whatever regrets you have (which is completely normal), that good relationship trumps them all. Indeed, it's all that matters, not the money or estate or arrangements or who got to say what or when. The love you shared as father and daughter was there and thats stronger than anything, even death.

You have my deepest sympathies.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:34 PM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

miss lynnster, don't worry about the IRS. give them a call when you get back from the funeral (or maybe if you need a break from the family time, give them a call from SD--sometimes a random task like that helps clear your head). they'll set up a payment plan that works for you.

you see, swooping down on you and seizing all your posessions costs them money, and setting up a payment plan doesn't. they have no incentive to harass you. the letters are stern because their marketing people are idiots and think they have to be mean to get your attention.

again, my condolences. hang in there, and don't be afraid of not knowing what to do. somehow, you will.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:45 PM on March 26, 2008

Sorry to hear that. Thinking good thoughts for you and yours.
posted by agregoli at 1:52 PM on March 26, 2008

You've gotten some very good advice in the thread and I don't have anything to add but I had to let you know how sorry I am for your loss and that you'll be in our thoughts.

thinkingwoman is probably right about the IRS, too. My mother owed a crapload of backtaxes and was terrified that the govt was going to take everything she owned and leave her with nothing. She called them, they set up a perfectly reasonable payment plan and were actually quite understanding about the whole thing.
posted by LeeJay at 2:02 PM on March 26, 2008

I'm so sorry for your loss.

The advice given so far is really quite spot-on. To reiterate... This is a time for greiving, not financial planning. Take care of the business at hand. In my experience, this is the time when people do their best to help out. Accept their help. You'll be in a state of shock, so it's OK to rely on others now and then. And talk to people who knew your Dad. When my brother passed away suddenly a few years ago, it was bittersweet but strangely comforting to hear others talk so kindly about him.

*big hug*
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 2:32 PM on March 26, 2008

I am so sorry for your loss, Miss Lynnster.

Right now, your priority should not be the money or your sister - it's YOU. Mygothlaundry's checklist is a good one.

Drive slowly and carefully down to San Diego - don't try to rush. Do not attempt to pull a "drive-a-thon;" get plenty of rest along the way. Maybe even break the trip up into two days and stop at a nice bed and breakfast or hotel along the way. Eat well and take your vitamins.

And oh yes, get more copies than you think you need of the death certificate. A lot of places are going to want a copy - your dad's bank, the Social Security office, anyplace he's had financial dealings.

If your insurance will pay for it, maybe a few sessions with a therapist or counselor will be of help to you. There are grief support groups, and, if you are at all spiritual, this is the time to turn to your spiritual or meditative work for comfort.

Please take care - the denizens of the green are thinking of you!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:39 PM on March 26, 2008

My condolences too, miss lynnster. Just chiming in to let you know that I'm thinking about you. You know I'm in the area if you need anything.
posted by snsranch at 3:58 PM on March 26, 2008

I'm sorry I don't have any practical advice for you. I'm very sorry to hear this, and I just wanted to let you know I'll keep you in my thoughts.
posted by fiercecupcake at 4:10 PM on March 26, 2008

My condolences.

You're entitled to be one of those people everyone is supposed to make it easier for. That's OK. Grieve as long as you need to, it may take a while.

Assuming your sister's not a complete monster, give her a bit of slack. She sounds like she's not a very mature or sensible person, she may well be in financial trouble (or think she is), and the stress of this situation is likely to bring out the worst in her. If she brings up the question of money point out that Uncle Fred is the executor and Uncle Fred will, in due time, be dealing with that. The estate has to go through lawyers etc. Just tell her you don't want to talk about it. Brandon Blatcher's advice is good.

Seconding mygothlaundry's excellent advice. Something to add to it if you like: write a eulogy for your dad. Sum up what he's meant to you, what he will continue to mean to you, in a way that can be shared with others who knew him and cared about him and were cared about by him too. This gives you a reason to get away from drama (not that you need one, but it helps stave the drama off to give one anyway), and to engage in conversation with your sister that's about your dad and what he means to you both. Encourage her to write one too. Eulogies are a good thing.

If you're a religious person--or at least retain some fondness for your dad's religion--take some time to talk to your dad's priest, if your dad was religious, or the funeral celebrant. They're professional grief counsellors, or know some. If there's anything specific you want mentioned during the service, say so. If he/she is the family priest, it's entirely appropriate to speak privately about the concerns you have about drama with your sister and ask for help dealing with them.

Whether it's appropriate to warn your uncle (or another senior family member) about the possible drama with your sister is so dependent on family dynamics, I couldn't begin to say. It might be. Consider it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:14 PM on March 26, 2008

Wow, that sucks. I'm really sorry.
posted by hulahulagirl at 4:16 PM on March 26, 2008

Response by poster: Okay, so here's the update.* I decided that I needed to spend the day alone, talking to friends, doing laundry, cuddling the puppy, basically trying to clear my head before entering the circus. And I decided not to drive. I hate that drive even when I'm feeling okay and I've worked really long hours this week so I was tired to begin with, prior to the dad thing. So I'm having the dog boarded and hopping on a plane in the morning.

I spoke to the IRS three times today and finally got someone nice who put my account on hold until April 25 so that's a little relief. And my sister spoke to me briefly this morning, assuring me that she isn't going to try to take advantage of me. I can't let my guard down with her but I know there is nothing that would hurt my father more than the two of us battling, and if I have to remind her of that in the future I will. I'm going to just try to handle things as my father would've wanted as best I can.

Still a royally sucky day, though. Man.

*Because I handle things with humor, whenever I've had to update people today I keep having to fight the urge to say, "Well, let's see. First off, my dad is still dead." And when my uncle called me from my dad's phone this afternoon we actually had to have a laugh over it because my first thought upon seeing "dad" on caller ID was, "No way! He come back to life! You guys totally got me on that whole 'your dad's dead' practical joke, you crazy tricksters! I've been so totally punk'd. I'm SO gonna get you guys back! Ha ha ha!" I'm very lucky my uncle gets my sense of humor and knows my dad would've thought it was funny too.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:08 PM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

My mom died on March 13th. I was the only one to handle the funeral arrangements. The things I found best were:

1. Listen to your body. It'll tell you when it's tired, hungry, in need of a shower, etc. You may feel anything right now, emotionally, but you need need NEED to take care of yourself. Listen to your body and give it what it needs.

2. Having good friends around for support is the best thing. They love you and they'll listen when you want to talk, chatter when you want to listen, and shut up when you want to be quiet. If you can, I recommend asking a special friend to be your buddy, stay by your side, etc. They'll be more than happy to help and you won't feel so lost.

3. If you're feeling overwhelmed, go for a walk or smoke or bathroom cry or whatever you need. It's totally okay to take time for yourself and don't worry about what other people will think. They're not important.

4. When you get a chance, look into Hospice counseling in your area. They probably offer group counseling (which I'm finding very helpful) and may offer one-on-one counseling (which is even better). It's free and good for you.

Good luck. It's going to suck some more but you will get through it.
posted by nessahead at 6:28 PM on March 26, 2008

You have my deepest condolences.

There is a beagle rescue society in Northern California. You might want to call them about finding a home for your Dad's beagle. Unfortunately the person who ran the SoCal beagle rescue moved to Virginia. They may still be able to help.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:34 PM on March 26, 2008

My deepest sympathies for you Miss L. Please care for yourself and take things slowly. Lots of great advice above so I don't have anything to add other than prayers for peace in your family and that the days ahead are as stress free as possible,
posted by pearlybob at 7:49 PM on March 26, 2008

It's kind of a cliché but I'd be happy to make you some casseroles or something, so you don't have to deal with cooking for a while. Please MeFiMail me if this would be helpful for you. Best wishes.
posted by Quietgal at 8:19 PM on March 26, 2008

((((Miss Lynnster)))). So terribly sorry to hear of your loss.
posted by Lynsey at 9:34 PM on March 26, 2008

Not much to add to the checklists above, but something I remember from when my father died was how nice it was to be able to hand some of those tasks off to other people. I don't know if you know people in San Diego, or if your relations with your relatives are comfortable enough for you to do this, but if someone else can keep track of the cards, the food, the notifications, and maybe even tracking down dates for the obituary, that can be a tremendous help. As much help as you're willing to take, from folks that won't add to the drama, is a good thing.

I'm so sorry that you're having to go through this.
posted by korej at 10:29 PM on March 26, 2008

First of all, I'm sorry for your loss. (BTW, today I was explaining to a co-worker where I got those Saints icons that adorn my desktop... they were howling laughing at the Saints pages...)

I lost my mother three and a half years ago. Everything that happened in the next three days is still a haze. What I do remember learning is this - listen to your body. If you're tired, try to sleep, even if you can't. (I couldn't sleep for two days no matter how hard I tried.) If you're hungry, eat. Just go with it. It may sound silly, but people forget in times like these. Then they get grumpy, or their judgement gets even worse. What your body tells you is about the only thing you're going to know how to handle for the next few days, so at least take care of that. As posted upthread, make sure you have provisions on hand.

This is time to grieve. Nothing else. If anyone brings anything up related to the estate, tell them that this is just not the time and there will be plenty of time for this later. If you can help it, make sure you don't rush back to work. You want to be able to function at least somewhat usefully when you get back to the office. I went back four days later and was useless. A couple of co-workers did the same thing, and they just couldn't think straight to get anything done. Again, this is time to grieve. However you do it.

Lean on your family, as many have said. You don't know what to do, but they don't either. Let them lean on you and lean back on them. I might suggest that you gather a few that you really get along with well and go out with them to get a bite to eat at a relaxed, casual place. Getting away from things and the crowd and being with the people you really want to be with for a little bit can be a great bit of therapy.

Last of all, this might sound like something that's just not in the picture, but then again, judging from one of your posts upthread, it probably is for you: Laugh. The chances might not be that many, but laugh when you can. It does help. Every minute you're laughing at a movie, or some funny conversation, or anything else is a minute that you're not consumed with pain. I have very funny siblings, and I found this to be a huge benefit when Mom passed. You can't laugh away the pain, but it can take the edge off of it.

Take care of yourself, and I hope things go smoothly for you.
posted by azpenguin at 1:19 AM on March 27, 2008

Response by poster: Just as an epilogue...

After spending two months handling my dad's stuff and doing research on just what my options were, I ended up getting my sister to sign off on an unbiased, independent trustee to take care of things for us and split them up evenly. It wasn't easy, but after a few hits & misses I finally found a trustee that was up to the challenge. I basically didn't give my sister much of a choice either, I wasn't going to move to San Diego to take care of his estate and she wasn't helping at all. So either she agreed to a third party taking over or I was going to have to petition the court. Fortunately, she signed off before I had to do that. So now it's all going along very slowly but someone is handling my portion of my father's estate on my behalf and dealing with my sister on my behalf. That alone is worth pretty much any fee they ask for.

And I miss him a lot. Your first father's day without a father is a surreal experience when you're used to having one...
posted by miss lynnster at 5:20 PM on July 5, 2008

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