reporter - Health care, Moreau, Queensbury, South Glens Falls

House search

This was the only clear path in a room the size of a living room. We found the will in a waist-high stack of magazines. Life insurance was under a pile of mail dating back to 2009.

I am navigating the unfortunate trifecta of death: estate insolvent (debts are more than the assets are worth); will made out to a deceased person; life insurance made out to another person, also deceased.

And of course, Aunt Carol died on Cape Cod, where cremation is a staggering $3,300 – and that’s before considering things like a service, death certificates or obituaries.

We scraped up the money for obituaries in the Cape Cod Times and The Post-Star (Aunt Carol grew up in Easton).

But we did not have $3,300 for a cremation. And while Aunt Carol did – she had $2,000 in her bank accounts (between checking and savings), plus a $2,400 life insurance policy – we could not use that money because no one living is named as her executor or beneficiary.

So I had to make the begging calls.

Aunt Carol was on food stamps through Massachusetts’ Department of Transitional Assistance. Given her lack of assets, the medical examiner thought she would easily qualify for cremation assistance. But it can't be applied for by the family. A funeral home can apply on behalf of the family. I guess this is to prevent fraud. Lovely.

Funeral home No. 1 immediately refused.

Funeral home No. 2 started quizzing me. Did she have a car we could sell? I explained that she did not have a car, but also that the estate is going to probate court because we do not have the legal authority to touch any assets.

He then asked for her address, pulled up the image on Google Maps and said, “What about that RV in her driveway?” I told him it had been parked there for 20 years and was falling apart.

He quizzed me about her house – which was in a reverse mortgage. She owes more than the house is worth. I had to explain to him all of the damage in the house – from a flood – and the fact that she was a hoarder who literally filled every room. I had to tell him the quotes we got from cleanout crews.

After he agonizingly pulled apart her whole life for his financial interests, he decided the DTA application would be denied because of her bank account, even though we can’t touch it.

He then pushed me to promise that I would pay if DTA doesn’t pay. He aggressively urged me to sign an 8-month payment plan. He began lowering the price. What if he knocked off $300? It was as if I was talking to a used car salesman.

It was a relief when he finally stopped and I could say good-bye.

The medical examiner is going to make a DTA application for us instead, and she walked me through that process with respect and kindness.

But it will take me awhile to get over the experience of having to justify paying my bills instead of paying for a cremation.

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You can reach Kathleen Moore at 742-3247 or kmoore@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @ByKathleenMoore or at her blog on www.poststar.com.


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