Sorry for the long absence, though I suppose it was predictable.
I'd like to be able to tell you that I've been mourning, reflecting, coming to terms, working through the stages, all those solemn and proper things you're supposed to do at times like this, and then stepping forward into a fresh new world of openness and freedom...
Ah, that would be a no.
The reality is this: I spent the whole course of his illness thrashing though paperwork, and that's what I'm still doing.
In my naivete I thought this round would be simple. Yes, I know, nothing to date has been, but at this stage, finally, there weren't a lot of complications. His affairs were so basic that there wasn't even any need to probate the will. Just notify the brokerage, shift his remaining assets into new accounts according to the requirements, and move on.
So I notified the brokerage. I requested the forms necessary to create a beneficiary IRA and move the remaining trust assets into my brokerage account, which is what the trust agreement demanded. The brokerage sent me an enormous sheaf of forms. The forms seemed odd for some reason - I couldn't figure out why they wanted me to apply for a trust, since what I was trying to do was close a trust. I decided to ask the lawyer, who didn't understand either. So I called the broker's assistant, who got testy. Then I tried the broker, who was on vacation in Florida and hard to reach. Finally I asked the lawyer to contact the broker, figuring that it would be faster if I took myself out of the discussion. They finally connected. Between them they worked out that the forms didn't make sense because they were entirely wrong. I didn't need to submit any forms. I needed to submit two letters of instruction, which the lawyer proceeded to draft.
I was ready to send them off when I reviewed them one last time and noticed that the broker had thrown in a line authorizing the sale of some securities to make it easier to divide them between me and my wife (the trust agreement says they have to be split 50-50). Background: every time I sell a security, I have to get a time-limited authorization from my wife's employer, a federal agency. The broker knows this because we've been doing it for three years - every time I had to set fire to assets to pay the cost of care. But this time he decides to do an end-run. So... trash the letter, go back to the lawyer and get a new one that doesn't include the sales authorization (can't revise the one she sent me because it's a PDF), send it to the broker and then call him and remind him that the rules haven't changed...
Fine. All fixed. And what does it matter that it took a while? Nothing, except that it would have been nice to use a portion of them to pay for the astonishing funeral costs, which are still sitting on my Visa card. A fast payoff would have killed the finance charge, but we missed that deadline, so now, with the meter running...
I can't concentrate fully on any of that because there's also the pharmacy bill - the enormous pharmacy bill. My father absorbed more prescription drugs during his three-plus months at the nursing home than in his previous 87 years. Thankfully, nearly the whole cost is reimbursable under his Medicare Part D benefit... which the nursing home's pharmacy seems unable to access. They keep sending me bills and telling me that the claim has been rejected because his insurance was stopped in January 2009. I call the insurer. No, his coverage wasn't stopped. It shifted from an outside claims-processing company to the main insurer. The nursing home has been billing the claims-processing company, which no longer handles his case. Can you give me the right claims information? I ask. Of course, here it is. I pass it along to the pharmacy, which thanks me for it... then sends me another bill. Same story. The insurer won't cover him. Who did you bill? I ask. The outside claims-processing company. So back I go to the insurer and get the right billing information, and once again I pass it along to the pharmacy. Then they send me another bill. Same story. Third conversation with the insurer, and then for the third time I pass the information to the pharmacy - this time by e-mail, copying everybody I've even spoken to or heard of who's had the least bit of contact with the case. Of course my e-mail crossed the March invoice. They've told me to wait for the April invoice because by then, everything will be settled....
Then comes good news. I get what I thought was going to be the final bill for inpatient services from the nursing home. But here's a surprise - it's not a bill, it's a credit. It seems that, in all the rush of activity when I was getting my father moved here and closing out his apartment, I lost track of the billing cycle. The room-and-board portions of the nursing home bill were prospective - you paid at the beginning of the month for the full month to follow. At the end of January, I paid, not for January, but, in advance, for the full month of February. Then my father died on the 8th. The balance of the February payment was refundable. And the refund is mine to claim - except that it's not. When he was alive, I was the responsible party and I wrote a check on the joint account I used for my father's expenses. But as soon as the payment was made, the funds became his. And now that he's dead and therefore not in a position to authorize the refund. I can't get at them without a letter of authorization. The letter of authorization is issued by the county's Department of Records. And to issue it, all they need is... a will that's cleared probate.
So, back to the elderlawyer. She tells me she'd be happy to probate the will but can't do that without an itemization of funeral expenses. I don't have one of those - or if I did, I don't anymore. Back to the funeral home, which tells me it's going to put an itemization in the mail.
Hasn't arrived yet.
And that's where we are.
There's nothing wrong with any of this, by the way. Yes, it's different from what I expected. But what in this experience hasn't been? And while I could sit here complaining that the red tape gets in the way of my mourning experience. it occurs to me that that's not right - maybe the red tape is the mourning experience. We live our lives in paperwork - why shouldn't we unravel in paperwork? As for the nice peaceful segregated mourning experience, well, life doesn't really provide for that either, does it? There's something fitting about my still being his administrator. As in life, so in death - just sign here.
I'm sure that at some other level, reflection is going on. I'll report on it soon.
LATER: The funeral home itemization came in today's mail. So did a statement from Medicare noting their refusal to pay for his hospice physician because she's not an attending. There's also a note from his Medicare Part D carrier that includes condolences for his death, and a statement that he's no longer covered as of March 1. This leads me to wonder whether they'll accept the claims from the nursing home pharmacy - the prescriptions were written before March 1 but if the claims weren't submitted 'til after...
Let me get back to you.