My Wobbly Bicycle, 167

Posted by on Mar 13, 2019 | 14 comments

Last year, the attorney told me that settling my father’s (modest) Trust would not be hard. I understood him to say he could handle most things. What that meant, apparently, was that he would give me a nice, neat three-page list of what needs to be done. Unless we want to spend a fortune on attorney’s fees. I have kept an equally nice, neat file box, 11 items (investment accounts, retirement accounts, etc.) each in its own folder. This is not my area of expertise, for God’s sake, but I thought I had it under control.


Okay, we are going to play Monopoly. No matter where you land, you must draw a card. Here are the cards:


  1. The National Service Life Insurance policy for $10,000 you just found (surprise!) in your father’s papers was offered to soldiers in WWII. You call the VA. You are at last routed to someone who says he converted it at age 70 to a less expensive policy, with a different name, worth only $5,000, which is why you didn’t recognize it. You had cashed it in in 2016.


  1. General American Life is not the same as American General Life. You call. You find that your father’s two General American policies were sold to Metlife. You had already cashed them both in, one in 2016 and one in 2018. You knew that, but were unaware that they were the same as General American.


  1. American General is also U.S. Life. Your father has a small U.S. Life policy. You did not know it is the same as American General. American General Group is AIG. They are also associated with The Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company, VALIC. After several inquiries, you ascertain that the VALIC policy is indeed the active one. And, by the way, so is the U.S. Life. Both small. Don’t ask why. Your father was just that way.


  1. John Alden Insurance Company has moved its contracts to several different companies, although the name John Alden is still in business, although you can’t tell which company holds which John Alden contracts.


  1. You discover that his Total Control Account is actually a Metlife company. Tracing most companies on your computer from their source names, you see that Metlife owns basically everything.


  1. Chevron used to be Texaco, which explains the rogue receipt for Texaco stock in your father’s papers. Chevron stock is handled by Computershare. SunAmerica is handled by AIG. Guess which is where your stock is.


  1. Enter the contract number you are calling about. We’re sorry, we can’t locate that number. If you would like to speak to an agent, press. 4. We are experiencing a large volume of calls. You can choose to wait on the line or you will find our website has answers to almost all your questions.


  1. Go to the notary today. Go to the notary tomorrow. Go to the bank to get the bank manager to affix a Medallion stamp on your application to transfer or sell your stock. It can only be affixed by the bank manager, who is busy at the moment but if you’ll just be seated, there’s coffee and water. Help yourself.


  1. Sorry, we handle only individual accounts. For annuity accounts, call this number. We’re sorry, we are experiencing a large volume of calls. You can choose to wait on the line or you will find our website can answer most of your questions.



10. Wally the Buddha Cat says, “Chaos is inherent in all        compounded things. Leave me alone. I’m trying to sleep.”



  1. Good heavens! There must be a better way to leave things, and yet I’m sure your father thought he had all the bases covered. Little did he know people would be moving the bases.

    • Did I say he was an economist? Ha. But he was also a bit autistic, which explains a lot.

  2. Most of my father’s estate was pretty straightforward, except for a life insurance policy in my name that he took out when I was born. After months of tracking, we found he had switched it to my mother’s name and cashed it in two years previously. Not sure what he did with the money, but it was a twisty road to figuring it all out.

    • So you get it. The twisty is really interesting sometimes. If I weren’t so frustrated, I would find it an interesting puzzle.

  3. When Mother died in 1973 life was much simpler. One life insurance policy I knew about, a VW Beetle she sold to me for a dollar, and a checking account I was co-signer on.

    But I’ve watched my cousin go through all kinds of gyrations to settle her husband’s estate. Most in a trust – more complicated than any of us thought, Including a new Social Security number. And much, much more.

    • This resonates with my experience of settling my mother’s estate. It felt like repeatedly yanking the bandage off my grief.

      • It actually has the opposite effect for me. It focuses me on practical things. And makes me smile at what a mess my father’s brain was. 🙂

    • Ah yes, it’s an EIN number–employee identification number–that the Trust has to have. I know ALL about this now!

  4. There is an all but indefinite number of reasons that I daily rejoice in having married my beloved. Reading yours, I understand that one reason –even if it didn’t apply on our wedding day– is her having become a lawyer. She has been meticulous about seeing to all these details before either of us croaks and, knowing her eye for minimalia, I’m pretty certain that none of our five kids will face your sort of nightmare. Just today I heard someone say “we are experiencing an unusually high volume of calls” and concluded that, at 76, I would likely not survive long enough to get through. I hung up and sought another avenue.

    Love you, Fleda.

    • That’s so funny! I dread using the phone for anything these days, because it’s always a robot on the other end. I shoulda married a lawyer. And, you know, my father’s brain was the real culprit. He didn’t realize what he was doing, with all these accounts, and if I had straightened it all out earlier, I would have had to cash things in and lose money.

  5. I’m with Wally.

    • Lord yes, me too. I should be out taking gorgeous photos like yours.

  6. Mercury is also retrograde right now in case you believe in such things. But might get better next month.

  7. For weeks after my mother died, I spent 6 hours a day on the phone, most of it going through voice mails to get to the human who would then offer me condolences and tell me about another number I had to call to start that whole process over again. One year later it’s only once a month or so…

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