Now that the horror of the past few weeks is done, it's time for me to start settling into the more humdrum pain in the ass of settling Jane's estate. I met with Joan (our lawyer) yesterday, and she clarified a bunch of stuff, but did confirm that my first problem is tracking down cousins.
Did you know Jane had cousins?
I was vaguely aware of their existence, but that's about it -- I think I met a few of them once, in the 25 years we were together, and couldn't have told you how many there were, much less their names. Aside from her parents (who we saw often), Jane wasn't at all close to the rest of her family. Besides simple geography (the cousins didn't live near her), that may be a consequence of her being the baby of the family. Her parents married quite late (it was his second marriage, after his first wife died), and she was born when her mother was 40, her father 50. So all of her cousins were much older than she, which I hypothesize is part of why she never really got to know them at all.
(I sometimes point out that she and I were technically different generations. She was the youngest of her family across several levels of cousins, I the oldest. Her father and my grandfather were contemporaries at Lafayette. But we met in the middle, with her just a few years older than me.)
Anyway, the first step of settling her estate is getting myself named as administrator. This seems straightforward, but it requires that all of the "heirs at law" assent to it -- and the first cousins are all heirs at law.
This is the first of what I expect will be a lot of "conversations I wish we'd had" slapping me in the face, because I have no *clue* how to contact the cousins. She was in at best very slight touch with them. The last contact I'm aware of was several years ago, when her mother died. Jane looked up one of the cousins to tell him -- only to discover that someone else in the family (another of the cousins?) had died a couple of years earlier, and nobody had through to track down Jane and tell *her*. Like I said, they weren't close.
But I need to make at least a serious good-faith effort to track them down, so that's the project for the next couple of weeks. Step one seems straightforward: go into her email and Facebook accounts, and see if there seem to be any entries for them there. I suspect I won't find them directly linked on Facebook (since I don't think any of them contacted me when I announced her death), but it's worth a try, especially since I know she had *some* way of contacting at least *some* of them. (And I figure that, if I can find *one* entry point into each side of the family, contacting the rest from there will be more straightforward.)
If that doesn't pan out, I may put out a call for assistance tracking them down. The one saving grace here is that Jane was, characteristically, a serious and talented genealogist, with thousands of entries (yes, literally) in her family tree. So I've got a family tree that lists what I assume are all the cousins, with names, dates of birth, and more often than not birthplaces and spouses. In principle, this seems like it should suffice to track them down, but I might still need advice and help actually doing so.
On the bright side, the better news from Joan yesterday is that a *lot* more expenses than I'd been thinking of count as estate expenses, not personal ones -- funeral, caring for her those last few months, settling Jane's credit cards, etc. That's over $30k that I've been paying out of pocket without even thinking about it. If it turns out that I have to split the estate (more on that in a separate post), at least those expenses also get split. (On the downside, it means that I need to get a lot more careful about tracking those bills, and need to backtrack on some of the filing. But that should be a fairly quick process...)