Wednesday, July 19, 2006

packing etc.

It’s already July 19th – where is the month going? It’s summer, and a lovely one at that but for all I’m paying attention it could be any season.

Again we’re in the thick of downsizing and packing up someone else’s stuff. We’ve spent two long afternoons at Mom’s suite in the villa. Good thing we went through this process last fall – because I’m nearly done, or I thought I was.

We came home last night bone weary after working from 1:00 - 6:30 then eating out, and I remarked to E. – Doesn’t this feel familiar? I fell asleep way too early, then woke at about 3:00 a.m. and tossed for a couple of hours. During that time I reconsidered my earlier packing decisions and decided unless I deal still more drastically with things, I’ll need to go through this exercise yet again, only in a storage locker not a pleasant apartment. And so today I undo some of those boxes and put more into bags for the thrift store, then pack cartons for families nearby and just put stuff in – and they can decide whether they want it or not.

Besides growing in the skill of getting ruthless with memorabilia (and my husband would argue I still have a long way to go!) I’ve gained another gem of wisdom during this process of tidying up the ends of someone’s life. It is that it pays to be completely knowledgeable about how one’s bank or credit union deals with the death of an account holder. We’ve found that it differs from institution to institution.

When one is joint on an account with someone who dies, and the bank is told of that death, one bank did nothing until we brought in the death certificate. Then they limited transactions on our part to bank drafts and threatened to return any cheques that came in after that (though they’d told us earlier we’d be able to use it for a year). Their custom is to never take a name off an account. Instead, people still alive and joint on the original account must open a new one.

In another institution, we were told that as soon as they get word of the death of one of the account holders, they freeze the account (no transactions of any kind). Then, when the death certificate is brought in, they take the name of the deceased person off the account, set up a separate estate account and the person or people remaining on the original account can use it as before.

All that to say, find out from your institution what happens when an account-holder (joint or not) dies. You might be surprised – but better surprised now than later!

(For Canadians who live in British Columbia, I found the blog of an estate lawyer who practices in Kelowna, and this entry about bank accounts.)

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