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The long, long list

I knew long ago that being Donald's executor was going to be hard work. Now I'm finding out in detail what a complicated job it is. Every day I try to check an item off my list... but every day I think of two or three more things that have to be added. Even though I tell myself I'm making progress, it's discouraging to watch the list grow. Here's what I have on the list now, a few weeks into the project:

  • contact sister, aunt, other relatives
  • contact paleontology expert
  • contact antiques expert
  • drive from New Mexico to Pittsburgh
  • arrange for cremation
  • install timers on lamps to make house look lived in
  • get death certificates
  • dispose of ashes
  • call decontamination crew to clean up death scene
  • pay water/sewer bill to prevent termination
  • find glyptodont
  • cancel telephone service
  • hire lawyer
  • hire accountant
  • file probate application
  • pay legal advertising fees
  • set up estate checking account
  • consolidate all bank accounts into estate account
  • pay bequests (sister, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Wagner Free Institute of Science)
  • cancel newspaper subscription
  • photograph antique furniture and other items and sell
  • transfer six hours of videotaped descriptions of house contents to iPad for reference
  • update homeowner's insurance
  • remove defunct kitchen appliances: fridge, stove, microwave, toaster oven
  • clean upstairs bathroom
  • repair toilet
  • unclog bathroom drain
  • clean bathtub
  • haul away worthless furniture
  • pay electric bill
  • pay final phone bill
  • pay gas bill
  • pay garbage bill
  • contact US Army re: pension
  • contact TIAA-CREF re: pension
  • file claim with life insurance company
  • catalogue and sell 2,000+ books
  • donate or throw out old clothing
  • cancel magazine subscriptions
  • discard empty cardboard boxes, rags, bags, etc.
  • pay Pennsylvania taxes
  • pay Federal taxes
  • pay real estate taxes
  • remove tools from basement
  • inventory, sort and ship out scientific books, specimens, journals, etc.
  • have house appraised
  • sell house
  • execute my own will
  • return to New Mexico

A few—a very few!—of these tasks have been checked off. Obviously I've made it from New Mexico to Pittsburgh. And as you've read, I found the glyptodont. I've been in contact with relatives, and with experts who will help me determine what to do with the antiques and scientific materials. These are big jobs that I couldn't possibly handle by myself—I simply don't have the expertise.

The scientific collections alone will most likely take the better part of the next three months to sort through and ship to their various recipients. Much of that work will be done by Donald's old friend and colleague Bob Hook, who knows these materials better than anyone. Donald and Bob worked together for years on fossil-bearing coal deposits in eastern Ohio. That's Donald sitting on the left in this circa 1990 photo, and Bob on the right splitting open a hunk of coal to see what kinds of critters may lie inside.

Donald and Bob Hook

I've hired a lawyer and accountant; in fact, they are the same man. By great good fortune, Donald's lawyer Phil Irani is both an attorney and a CPA, as well as a trusted family friend who grew up with my cousins. He's done a lot to smooth the way for me, for which I'm profoundly grateful. He'll handle the legal end and do Donald's final tax return as well. Whew!

But I haven't paid most of the bills (except the water bill), or updated the insurance, or even begun to catalog the books, let alone figure out who will buy them. (A few are rare and valuable; many are archaeology, history and military history titles.) There are a million things to do, and every day the list gets longer. Someday it will start to shrink, but that day seems far, far away from where I sit now.

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