Tuesday—Life Is Complicated Day #5: TCB

Navigating Las Vegas...taking care of the business of dying


Dove statue at Memory Gardens

Las Vegas Coroner's Office  
First stop, the Las Vegas coroner's office on Pinto Lane to pick up my dad's personal belongings.  $38 in cash, his wallet, 2 credit cards, a debit card, and his keys.


Bunkers Mortuary
Next stop, Bunkers Mortuary at the corner of Washington and Las Vegas Boulevard South.  This is old-timey Las Vegas.  We drove past the old Union Plaza depot, past Fremont Street, and past the neighborhood where I learned to ride my first 2-wheeler bike.  We were just down the street from the elementary school where I attended Kindergarten and First Grade.  We arrived at the mortuary once owned by "Miss Nancy" Merle Bunker, the star of The Cinderella Show in Las Vegas.

We met with our arrangement director, Nick, who gave me a casket flag for my dad because he served in the National Guard for a year, and then in the Air Force for four more.  Heidi and I signed more paperwork and paid $83 out-of-pocket to cover state mortuary fees.  My dad's pre-need cremation package came to a grand total of $1,328.  If we had walked in that day to make arrangements for the same package that my dad had prepaid in 2009, it would have been $2,000—and gone up from there.


Memory Gardens
Next stop, Memory Gardens Cemetery off of Craig Road to see if my dad had purchased a cremation niche next to his wife.  The rolling lawns were yellow and neglected, but the cemetery attendants, Inez and Betty, took care of us.  They confirmed that my dad had NOT purchased a cremation niche, but they offered to sell us one for $12,000.

Seriously?  Twelve grand to keep a box of ashes in something that looks like a high school gym locker?!  It's hard to believe that my dad paid that much for his wife, but grief warps good judgment, and he probably gave in to her kids.  The absurdity of it all made us giddy on the walk back to the car.  We left for the bank just as a bitterly cold wind picked up from the West and dark gray clouds began to stack up over Red Rock.


Wells Fargo Bank
Our final stop was at Wells Fargo Bank off of Charleston.  This would be the trickiest errand of the day and my first official duty as successor trustee.  We needed to see the contents of the safe deposit box that I shared with my dad.  It contained all of his most important personal papers, and as successor trustee, it was now my job to gain an accurate and precise understanding of his estate.

As I said in the previous post, my dad was a genius at dying.  Four years ago when he set up the family trust, he brought me into the bank and went over the contents of the safe deposit box with me.  He added my name to the box and gave me a key.  Anyone who visits a safe deposit box has to sign a ledger, so my signature was on the box from that visit in 2009.  This allowed Heidi and me to open the box, go over everything together, and remove the contents.

Four years ago, I was instructed to contact a bank manager regarding the safe deposit box.  The reality is that even with an affidavit of successor trustee from our trust attorney and a receipt from the coroner's office for my dad's personal effects, I still needed an official death certificate to access his account.  It takes 7 to 10 days to get certified death certificates from the mortuary, and the bank froze the checking account immediately after we removed the contents of the safe deposit box.  In hindsight, I would have cleaned out the safe deposit box first, then taken a couple of days to download statements and study the account before notifying the bank.  

Without his papers, I would have had no idea where the titles were to his cars; how much he owed on his house; what insurance policies he had; what the passwords were to his online accounts, or how he managed his money.  With his papers, I could begin the process of notifying his creditors and move ahead with the execution of the trust.  The details are staggering, and the first thing that needs to be done is to sort out what is immediate and what isn't.  Everything was riding on access to his important papers, and he was wise enough to put them into safe keeping, then teach me what to do.  

We know a whole lot more today than we did yesterday.  Talk about a steep learning curve.


Thanks for insisting that I go to the bank with you four years ago, Dad.

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