With death comes grief, the natural emotional response to losing someone meaningful. With death comes a myriad of complexities that grievers face that can significantly interfere with the natural progression of grief and adaptation to a new life without the significant other person. These complexities, which we call “estate administration,” include:
1) making funeral and memorial service arrangements
2) inventorying the decedent’s assets and debts, and paying all last expenses and taxes
3) locating the decedent’s estate plan and following through on the decedent’s wishes regarding the disposition of assets
Estate Administration While Grieving
Estate administration happens during the grieving period when grief can be most pronounced, and the grievers must continue with their own lives. Grievers not only grieve on an individual level, but must collaborate and cooperate with other grievers during this estate administration. Conflict can easily arise due to differences of opinion among the grievers as to how to arrange the decedent’s affairs, and past relational wounds and differences tend to surface.
If the decedent’s family’s history in terms of conflict-resolution was one of collaboration, listening and fairness in coming to an agreement while preserving relationships, and when a decedent establishes an estate plan that clearly communicates intentions and instructions, the stress and anxiety that often accompany grief will be greatly minimized. Properly preparing one’s estate plan in this manner allows the survivors to experience the natural grieving process with reduced stress, guilt and conflict.
Hard feelings among survivors can result simply from the way each person processes grief. In G. Scott Budge’s article “Grief and Estate Settlement,” he introduces two main types of grieving styles — instrumental and intuitive. As more task-oriented, the instrumental griever will want to work on the estate administration paperwork and get things completed.
Hard-pressed to take action, the intuitive griever may not want to take any action, and instead spend time emotionally contemplating and feeling the loss of a loved one. The risk is that one may perceive the instrumental griever as cold-hearted and the intuitive griever as lazy. So for the benefit of all, prepare an estate plan that minimizes the potential for conflict.