Busy Busy Busy; the Duties of an Executor

This week has been busy with medical procedures and doctor’s appointments, all part of that ‘third birthday’ I discussed two days ago. Tuesday: draws for extensive blood-work, at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center on Ashby in Berkeley (photo above), followed by an EKG, and a chest x-ray. Wednesday, to CMPC in the city — that was the photo two days ago — for an echo-cardiogram, another blood draw (the folks on Tuesday missed one of the tests, argh), and a visit with one of my four cardiologists, this one Ranjan Ray, whom I saw for the first time not wearing a mask. (Even folks in hospitals are becoming lax about masks, but I still wear mine, since I’m immunosuppressed.) Thursday, another trip to CMPC (the Bay Bridge traffic is rarely good; the 15 mile trip typically takes an hour; it’s all about those obsolete toll booths, but that’s another story), for a left/right heart catheter procedure, which they do only once a year, on the anniversaries of the transplant. This entails bedrest after the procedures for 2 hours, since they put me under slight anesthesia, so even though we left the house at 7:30am, we weren’t home until nearly 2pm, following a procedure that itself lasted only 45 minutes.

The good news: I’m fine, virtually all bloodwork within range, heart exams good. I’m always fascinated by how the nurses go through their lists of symptoms and conditions. Ever had this? This? This? No, no, no. After the bedrest on Thursday, I stood up and walked around fine. Any pain, dizziness? No, no. …And yet I was rather tired, and didn’t finish my 5000 steps for the day. That was the worst of it.


Meanwhile, I’m dealing with settling Larry’s estate, and this has gone on for so long I’m now inclined to spell out some of the steps involved, at least in my case.

The key problem is that Larry lived alone, was estranged from his family, and so had no next of kin. He had told me he’d written a will, naming me as beneficiary and executor. I was the one who called the sheriff’s office (tipped off by another of Larry’s friends, Marcelo Mrns, whom I’ve never met) to do a well-check. The sheriff’s deputy found the body, and had it taken away to the Justice of the Peace (Texas’s version of a coroner). After that, I couldn’t find out anything, no matter who I called; I wasn’t next of kin. Finally, via some advice from one of the Bay Area cousins (of my partner’s family) and some web searches for gay-friendly probate lawyers in the Austin area, I hooked up with Elizabeth Brenner’s firm.

She appealed to the judge to gain entry to the house to find the will, which as I’d always been told, was in a drawer by Larry’s desk in his office. Sure enough, it was there. And it had been signed by two witnesses, but not officially registered (in whatever sense that means). Another zoom hearing before a judge, with two old friends of Larry’s (Drummond Buckley and Adam Barnes) online, to confirm Larry’s signature. After all that, I was officially named executor, and could gain access to Larry’s accounts.

So the big questions, when you inherit someone’s estate: what does he own; what are his debts? There were a lot more hoops to jump through. One was that, because his body was not immediately identified by the funeral home, some confusion led to an official Death Certificate not having been issued. For the same reason, he was buried in an indigent cemetery.

Initial questions:

Banks accounts? Savings accounts? Stocks, bonds, IRAs?

The lawyer, Liz Brenner, shipped me Larry’s laptop, and his wallet.  I knew he’d had a Bank of America account, because he’d complained about the bank to me on the phone, once when he experienced debit card fraud and had to get it replaced. And an examination of directories on his laptop turned up tax files and information about three TD Ameritrade accounts. Further, the lawyer and her assistant scanned a pile of his paper mail and sent me a PDF; those mail included TD Ameritrade statements, miscellaneous small medical bills, and so on. Finally, an Excel spreadsheet in one of his directories laid out his assets, including his house, for the purpose of estimating how many years he might yet live. His only income for the past few years, maybe since he moved to Texas in 2006, was Social Security.

His laptop’s browser remembered his logins to his Bank of America account, and his TD Ameritrade account. And, after a bit, his Yahoo email.

From all of that, it worked out that Larry had accounts at only one bank, one investment firm, and one other credit card (AmEx). His financial estate was simpler than I’d feared.

The estate itself, property: a nearly 3000-square foot house, south of Austin, worth some $800K according to Zillow, but with a mortgage remaining of about $200K. A 2012 car, a VW GTI, which he likely had not driven for the past couple years, given his condition. Some nice furniture, early 20th century Art Deco and Craftsman style. A few hundred books, a bunch of much CDs, some DVDs. Three bicycles.

Much progress in recent weeks, but not yet done. Here’s a list of issues I and my partner are addressing:

⦁ Access to his bank accounts; done
⦁ Access to his investment firm’s accounts; done (i.e. all his assets transferred to me)
⦁ Transfer house deed to my name; done, though the actual deed is not back in my hands;
⦁ Arrange for realtor to sell house; done;
⦁ Settle debts… partly done;
⦁ Still open: contacting Farmer’s insurance to see if they can extend policies that expired because of nonpayments;
⦁ And: contacting the mortgage company for a similar issue: let me keep making payments on his mortgage;
⦁ And then, upcoming: meet with estate seller about his (much very fine) furniture and objects d’art;
⦁ Meeting various sellers (including Lawrence P) to take away his stuff, to empty out his house;
⦁ And to contact his three primary utility agencies to keep service on while the house is up for sale.
⦁ And what to do about his car, concerning title transfer, and insurance; whether we sell it in Austin to CarMax, or ship it back to California. We have to decide this in the next few days.

Many other details, but this list indicates some scope, I think.

And that’s all I should say for now. After my medical visits this past week, I spent the entire day today on these matters.

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