The Saturday Trust—The New Normal

Everything I've learned about administering a family trust


The family trust goes nowhere without death certificates

The New Normal
For those of you who don't already know, my dad died on November 26, 2013, two days before Thanksgiving.  From that point on, my life changed with one powerful stroke.  When the phone rang at around 5:30 that evening, I was pulling a pot out of the cupboard beneath the stove and thinking about making mashed potatoes.

The coroner said that she was sorry to tell me that my dad had passed away earlier that day.  I was stunned.  Unless you've ever been stunned, you don't know what it's like.  The air seems to leave the room, and all light fades.  There is no emotion whatsoever, just a feeling of floating in crystal clear water.  No feeling, no breath, just a sense of being cut loose from all that is known and normal.

In the absence of all feeling, there is a purposeful calm.  I asked the right questions, burrowing into the facts so that panic could not emerge from a lock box of anxiety.  Knowledge was the superglue that kept my thoughts together.  I hung up the phone and muttered out loud to myself, "I have to tell somebody."

I called my sister, no answer.  I tried her cell and left a text message to call me back ASAP.  I left a verbal message on her home phone.  I was highly aware of the sound of my own voice, flatlined, urgent, and pleading.  Then, I called my mom who was audibly as shocked as I was.  At first there were no words, just a gasp, followed by the robotic exchange of information as she asked the same questions that I did when I spoke with the coroner.  The coroner...

I hung up, and my sister called.  The conversation swung like a heavy pendulum between us.  What happened, when, where, how, who knew what?  The details were jagged shards of glass wrapped in cotton.  I could hear the purposeful calm in her voice, too.  My husband walked in from work as he did every weeknight around 6 o'clock.  He could see that something was terribly wrong.  I shot him a look that it wasn't about our kids.  The call ended as succinctly as it had begun, and there was nothing left for us to say.  Neither one of us had any answers, but we knew that we had to move forward.

That was the beginning of the new normal.


Navigating the New Normal
I've been navigating the new normal for a little over 8 weeks, now.  Time slows down and speeds up at weird intervals, and every day has been a new experience.  I am in Next-of-Kin legal bootcamp.  I've incorporated my role as trustee into my everyday routine, but it never leaves me, even when I'm asleep.  My mind breaks down the SMIT list at night (Six Most Important Things), and I strategize in the shower the next morning.

A year from now, the trust will be closed, and I will have been successful at throwing a lasso around  every detail of my father's 78-year existence.  Before he died, I had no clue of what this experience would be like.  So, I'm going to do what every red-blooded, post-college trained executive secretary would do in my situation...take notes!

The Saturday Trust will be a written account of my day-to-day administration of our family trust, and hopefully, there won't be too many mistakes.  It truly is a learn-as-you-go full-time job.  Each week, I'll provide an update on the responsibilities, the triumphs, and the difficulties.  And, I will talk about the surprising foundation of love that motivates me every day.

Next Saturday's topic...Choosing the Right TTE

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