Death and taxes

By Nancy Black

My neighbor across the street was found dead in his house earlier this month. His family hadn’t heard from him for more than a week, so they called the police for a welfare check. My heart goes out to my neighbor’s family, who live in Houston. They are devastated. 

My heart also goes out to the police officer who made the gruesome discovery. No need to remind anyone how hot it has been here. And my neighbor’s poor dog was in the house with him. Thankfully, the dog survived thanks to immediate action taken by the police officers. They gave him water and waited for hours with the dog in an air-conditioned patrol car until Dallas Animal Services (DAS) arrived. 

They took the emaciated animal to the S.P.C.A, where the family picked him up the next day.

Then came the clean-up, a job I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but one we can all be thankful somebody does. A company called Aftermath showed up. I get no money for naming the company, but I did so because I think it’s a cool name for a crime scene clean up company. I’d try to sell them an ad in White Rock Lake Weekly, but I’m thinking theirs is a niche market.

Anyway, they worked on my neighbor’s house nonstop for three days. All while the family searched desperately inside the same house for their loved one’s will.

Yes! That is the point of this whole, gruesome column. To remind readers to not only write and/or have executed a will — but tell your family where it is!

If my neighbor’s family can’t find his will, then all sorts of probate hell is about to be unleashed upon them. Add to the situation that my neighbor’s house is very cluttered, and you get a family frustrated and, possibly, angry with their deceased relative for leaving them in such a distressing situation. 

So, please, do yourself and your family a favor, and write your last will and testament. Then tell your family where your will is stored, preferably in a safe, easy-to-access location such as a fireproof-waterproof lock box in your home. Don’t have a lawyer to assist with your will? This time I can brag on an advertiser. David Bower (see page 2) is a lawyer who has been serving East Dallas for more than 35 years. He specializes in writing very affordable wills and is also a long-time advertiser of White Rock Lake Weekly.

Or act like Aretha Franklin and leave a handwritten will. Either way, get it done now.

While you’re at it — “it” being preparing for the end of your life — make sure all your beneficiaries are properly assigned to any assets you may have, and that taxes have been taken care of ahead of time. My daughter’s father died and, when she inherited his $20,000 money market account, she was taxed $14,000 by the IRS. 

She was 13 at the time. I’m still paying it off.

And, finally, get to know your neighbors. Our deceased neighbor was a hermit, and no one on our cul-de-sac knew him very well. I had only met him once when he first moved in four years ago. I do know he was only 54. 

I’m friendly with most of my neighbors but, by the time all the police, fire, crime scene investigators, coroner’s office and Aftermath people had finished their work, all of us neighbors were best friends. We made pacts with each other that we would watch out — not only for suspicious activities, which we already did — but for each other even more than we already had. 

Benjamin Franklin famously wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” It’s amazing how many people don’t plan for either.