In 1996 Brad died from a cocaine overdose. He was 31 years old, unmarried, no kids or girlfriend. Brad didn’t drink or smoke, had a full time job, owned his own home and had very nice possessions. I had found out about his drug use only 2 weeks earlier, and was surprised to learn that he had been abusing cocaine for a few years. Surprised, but not shocked.
The shock came when I entered his apartment soon after his death. His neat-as-a-pin apartment was a mess, to say the least. And if the mess wasn’t bad enough, certain things just didn’t make sense, such as tobacco on the counter (but he didn’t smoke) and small pieces of paper everywhere. I later found out the tobacco was used in freebasing cocaine, and the small pieces of paper were what the cocaine was packaged in (a ‘flap’). I stopped counting flaps at around 70. I felt so uncomfortable in Brad’s apartment... just wanted to leave.
I knew I had to settle Brad’s estate, but didn’t know what that meant, except that I was likely going to require bank statements, receipts, and other formal documents. So, as fast as I could, I dumped every single piece of paper into a large garbage bag, and left. That night, the papers were dumped onto my living room floor and I began sorting through it all, but found it far too emotional to work at this for more than an hour each day. It wasn’t the death that bothered me so much, but rather the realization that I was getting to know Brad for the first time. Getting to know him by reading credit card receipts, such as the many receipts for dinner at his favourite Chinese restaurant. And, by how much money was spent, it appeared as though he was there alone.
My mom’s eerie prediction came true... not a single one of Brad’s friends attended his funeral. Not one.
Initially, I didn’t cry when Brad died. Although I felt bad about his death, I didn’t feel bad for me, but rather felt bad for him because of everything he wouldn’t have an opportunity to experience. He would never experience a long-term relationship, kids, pets, vacations or a rewarding career.
With my lawyer’s help, the estate eventually got settled and the apartment sold. Some of his possessions were given to family members, but I kept the bulk of it, and a few of Brad’s handmade wooden ‘school projects’ are on display in my office. The work involved in settling the estate wasn’t very difficult, really, but it took many months, meaning the death remained front and centre for much longer than I would have preferred. Brad’s condo seemed to be the emotional centre point for me, so it became easier as we slowly removed the possessions. And it became much easier after painting and replacing the carpet... at that point it was just an apartment rather than Brad’s home. Everything seemed a little easier when I became unemotional and detached.
Relationships mean everything to me, and Brad’s death completely reinforced that for me. My stress level peaks when I think someone is dissatisfied with my actions or behaviour, causing me to worry that the relationship may suffer. And this concern extends into my business life as well, where I’m very careful about making commitments. I make commitments only when I know I can achieve them, rather than simply believing I can, reducing the chances of disappointing someone.
I met an executor once who had almost finished settling her mother’s estate, and she asked me to help her finish the last few tasks. I explained that she really didn’t need my help because she had only a few simple things left to do, but she said she begins to cry each time she opens the file. She didn’t have to ask me twice... no one should have to struggle with settling an estate like I struggled.
This is my ‘Why’... why I do what I do. I thoroughly enjoy helping executors settle someone’s estate. I help them overcome the stress, the unknown and, for some, help them meet what appears like an overwhelming obligation... an obligation filled with emotion based on their own relationships.