Ashes to Ashes

It was one of those estates where you could cut the tension with a knife.  It wasn’t necessarily the fault of the last remaining parent who had just died.  It was her son, who was (to put it mildly) a massive pain in the butt.  He was spoiled, discourteous, disrespectful, and just not what you would consider a good person.  Those who know me would tell you I am an exceptional judge of character, whether it be from an intuition I seem to have inherited from mom, or just decades of observing and working with the good and bad side of human nature.  So, how bad could this son really be?

Well, let’s just say he demanded that I sell mom’s very personal items that we would normally dispose of, or wash and donate.  He dug into our donation boxes that had already been taped shut.  “I want every cent I can get out of this estate, so I want you to sell everything including her underwear.  Then I want you to low-ball the values so I don’t have to pay too much in taxes.”  Can you believe this?  Unfortunately, he was serious.

He was a man of significant financial means and was getting ready to inherit much more.  If selling mom’s undergarments wasn’t strange enough (which I refused to do because I believe in preserving the dignity of those no longer with us), we found cremated remains of his father, who had died two decades before, in a foyer cabinet.  As always, I handle remains with much care when we find them.

After consulting with the attorney handling the estate, it was determined that this son should take care of the remains.  When I handed the box of cremated remains to the son, he literally assumed a bowler’s position and threw the box, from several feet away, under the kitchen sink with the Windex and Comet.  Oh my gosh!  If I had not been there to see it, I never would have believed it.

I managed to get the son out of the estate and rescued the remains from the household chemicals.  After reporting this to the lawyer, we decided I should deliver “Mr. Smith’s” remains to the lawyer, who would try to find another family member to scatter the ashes as Mr. Smith wished.  It was the right thing to do.

I vaguely remember telling the law firm that if they could not find a family member, please let me know and I will scatter Mr. Smith.  I felt horrible that this man’s wishes were never fulfilled and that his remains were treated with such disrespect.  Years later, I received a call from the law firm asking me if the offer was still on the table to scatter Mr. Smith.  No family member would come and get him.  Struck speechless and trying to recall this estate from my long-ago memory, I simply replied that I would be happy to honor the last wishes of this man who clearly had no one who would do it for him.

The spoiled, uncaring family, who wasn’t willing to tend to his remains but more than willing to take his money, was a no-show, despite the best efforts of the law firm to come and get Mr. Smith.  It was then legally arranged for me to do this.  I saw to it that Mr. Smith got his final wish, praying over his ashes as a stranger, but one who clearly cared more for him than his own family.  I would want some kind soul to do the same for me.

For decades, his remains floated and were thrown around.  It was time they were released, and they were.  In a gorgeous area and on a perfect day, this stranger lifted a prayer for him, but silently cursed his son under my breath.  I know I should have been a better person than that, but seriously, how low can one go?

Sorry to quote Forrest Gump, but “Sometimes there just aren’t enough words.”

©2013 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising.  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at

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