Handling The Estate Of My Father

In my previous blog post article, I wrote about the death of my father this past Saturday.  My father, who was in his mid-eighties, was living on the east coast in the southern part of the U.S., with his girlfriend of twenty years.

Eight years ago my father had moved several states away from where he, my sister, and I were born and grew up, in order for his girlfriend to return to the state where she had spent most of her life, and where her son and other family members lived.

At first, my father and his girlfriend bought a nice, barn-style home on a fairly large wooded lot, in a heavily treed neighborhood.  Unbeknownst to me for quite a long time, he had bought a Porsche 911 convertible, and a BMW station wagon,  It was like he was hiding them from me.

Like my father had always done at our home growing up, other homes that he had lived in, and behind his office building, he would feed the animals, birds, cats, dogs, squirrels, possums, raccoons, skunks, whatever showed up.  Because of our own pets constantly letting themselves in and out of the house back door, the door was usually partly open, and things like opossums and black snakes would wander inside the house.  Different times, a black snake would be found waiting at the front door to be let out of the house by someone.

When my father moved to the barn-style house with his girlfriend, at the age of about 76, he set up bird feeders to feed the birds and squirrels, and he fed neighborhood pets that came over to his house like cats and a beagle.  The reason why the beagle wandered over, was because the house where it lived, the single-mom and her teen-aged daughters were never home, so it’s owners didn’t mind their beagle staying over at my father’s house during the day.

It was kind of a shock to me that my father and his girlfriend decided to move to an assisted living facility about three or four years ago.  One of the most important things to my father had always been to have a home with a porch and yard to sit out, to plant things like flowers, roses, and citrus trees, and he looked forward to seeing the animals that showed up every day.

I couldn’t understand why my father would give up his home.  I thought that he felt the same way that I did, that we would rather die at home falling down the stairs, off a ladder, off the roof, or have a heart-attack mowing the lawn, than waste away in an assisted living facility, or a nursing home.  I don’t know exactly why he got scared all of a sudden.  Maybe it was something that his girlfriend wanted to do, for either her sake, his sake, or for both of them.

At first, when I was talking to my father on the phone after he had moved into an assisted living facility, he was just joking about now sitting around and waiting to die.  But after about one year of living in the assisted living facility, that is exactly what it became, just sitting around waiting to die.

The last year of my father’s life, he was telling me that neither he or his girlfriend had any desire to go down and eat in the assisted living facility dining hall, that they had no interest in meeting any more people, or even talking to them.

What I thought was happening, was that my father and his girlfriend found it depressing to be surrounded by very old people, whose health was failing, who would talk about their physical ailments, and before long they would be moved out of the assisted living facility and into a nursing home.  A few days after my father’s death, when I was talking to my sister, she told me that no, it was the other way around, my father’s health and mood had declined way more than anyone else in that particular assisted living facility.

Eight months ago, my father called me to explain his estate in the event of his death.  He told me that he had appointed his girlfriend’s son, Jay, to be his representative and executor of his estate.  I listened to my father without objection, as he explained that Jay had helped he and his girlfriend many times over the past eight years, and that he trusted Jay very much.

In my mind, one of the reasons why my father did this, was because Jay was living close by, whereas myself and my sister were living far away.  Another reason was that Jay was financially uninvolved, the only thing that he was going to inherit was my father’s automobile, which I thought was fair.  But the other reason was, that my father could not trust either me or my sister to not try to fuck the other one out of money somehow.

When my father went over an accounting of his estate with me eight months ago, I was unpleasantly shocked, it was less than half of what it should have been.  Back in 2010, my father went over an accounting of his estate with me, and since that time as far as my sister and I knew, over the past ten years he had consistently added to it through investments, which he was kind of proud of.

When I found out that my father’s estate was so low eight months ago, I didn’t say anything to him at that time, I did not ask him what had happened.  I only said to him that he was going to have a difficult time making it through retirement with that, a nursing home or emergency medical care could use up all that money within a few years.  He said, I know.

I was concerned that my father would not make it through retirement with the low amount of money that he had.  Would he eventually have to live with my sister or me?  Would I have to quit what I was doing and go back to the east coast, get a job there, and rent an apartment, so that my father could live with me?  Neither myself or my sister, or both of us combined, could afford to pay $6,000 to $9,000 per month for a nursing home, so I don’t know what else we could do but have him live with one of us.

I also had to wonder what happened to my father’s money and investments.  Did he have a huge financial loss in a risky or fraudulent investment?  Did he loan or give a large amount of money to someone?  Was he the victim of some kind of scam, and was too embarrassed to tell anyone?  Or, had my father misled everyone, my sister and I, for most of our lives?

A few days after my father’s death, I explained to my father’s appointed representative/executor Jay, and my sister, what my father’s investments and cash assets were as of eight months ago.  Jay found them, pretty much as I said they should be.  At that time, I discussed with both Jay and my sister, that I was very shocked at how low they were, what they should have been according to the accounting that my father had given me ten years ago, and that I didn’t know what had happened.

Then, a day later, after some confusion, there was a great deal more confusion and despair, as we learned that my father had invested in, Collateralized Mortgage Obligation bonds, known as CMOs.

To explain CMOs, large groups of home mortgages are funded or bought, in order to create an investment that can be sold or traded as a bond, and categorized by risk of these mortgages, interest rates of the mortgages, and time of repayment of the mortgages.  These Collateralized Mortgage Obligation bonds, are what led to the housing & financial collapse of 2008.

Why the fuck would you want to own Collateralized Mortgage Obligation bonds, at the the beginning of a World-wide unemployment apocalypse due to coronavirus and $20/barrel oil oversupply?  At this time, you could expect the greatest amount of mortgage defaults in the history of mankind.

At first, my sister and I had thought that we were going to cash out of my father’s investments, because we were told that they consisted of bonds, which unlike stock, had not dropped in price like the rest of the stock market.  Then, we heard the financial advisor saying things like, now is not a good time to sell these CMOs, they have to be put out for bid, they will sell for maybe 35% less than their nominal value.

I discussed with my sister, do we want to sell these CMOs now for 35% less than what we were told they were worth?  Would it be better to wait?  Is 35% less the bottom price, or could they sell for even less than this?  Can we put a reserve minimum price for the sale of these CMO bonds?

I asked my father’s investment advisor customer service representative, if people stop paying their mortgages, are these CMOs going to become worth less, or even worthless?  She said, yes.  So that settled it for me.  I explained to my sister, that people have been able to pay their mortgages for March and April, but after this, many people will no longer be able pay their mortgages, we need to sell these CMOs now.

When it was my sister’s turn to talk to the investment advisor customer service representative, and she looked up my father’s investment account, two of the CMOs that he owned were already in default due to people not paying their mortgages.

We had a very confusing, up and down, initial handling of my father’s estate.  Good news, then bad news, good news, then bad news.

In perhaps my next blog post, I may write about investment firms and advisors selling products and services to an elderly client, which may be horrible for their heirs to deal with.

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