Mum died and I live abroad

My mum passed away a few months ago. She had an accident outdoors, wasn’t found for several days and died alone. I live abroad and can’t travel because of COVID so I couldn’t have a funeral, and now the executor is selling our family house and clearing it without me. I will be losing over 80 years’ worth of family history, and I can’t say specifically which items I want because I don’t know what’s in every cupboard. A proper clear-out would take years. There must be many other people in this situation during the pandemic. Any advice?

Hello, I am so sorry about the loss of your mum.

Who is the executor? A family member? Are you included in the will? If you are then I am sure the executor cannot just clear things like that without consulting you.

Thanks for your reply. The executor is a lawyer I’ve never met. His job is to sell Mum’s property and distribute her estate, and he’s already found a buyer. I am a beneficiary but I would need weeks/months to go through everything in the house to know what’s there and what I might want to keep, but I can’t travel. I’m still in shock over the way Mum died – one minute she was emailing me about her day, the next minute she went outside and never came back. The police found her library book by her favourite chair, with a bookmark in the page she was up to, and I keep wishing she hadn’t gone out that day.

Hello,

So I presume the executor has already applied for probate? They must have had the chattels (contents of the home) valued for this - did they actually do this? Ask them for an inventory of the chattels if they have gone through the contents. If they haven’t gone through the chattels, then they must - they can’t just sell the house and get rid of everything without first trying to determine the valuation, if any, of the chattels.

Are you the sole beneficiary? Are you expected to inherit all your mum’s belongings in the home? You should talk to the executor about your concerns, and if the executor is being unhelpful, you have legal rights to challenge them. I think what might just happen is that if you are the sole beneficiary of the chattels, you might just have to get some storage space and get it stored in there, as the executor is obliged to sell the home and cannot wait indefinitely for you to come and go through all the items. But as I am not an expert in this area, you’re probably best off contacting the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and see what they say.

(And so sorry about the way your mum died)

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I have sent you a private message which I hope helps you.

Sending you a virtual hug - I lost my mum in June and wasn’t able to be with her when she died. My heart goes out to you. Clearing the house is emotionally draining but there are personal things that should be kept. I found diaries from our holidays in wales which I now treasure. The executor should be willing to put aside photos and anything of sentimental value. I wish you well. I am missing my mum terribly xxx

Thank you everyone for your kind comments. The house clearance feels way too big to think about, but I know I have to do it soon. The property is being sold within the next few weeks so I have to let the executor know what I want saved. It’s just so difficult doing it without actually being there. I need to give specific instructions, but it’s like being blindfolded. The COVID pandemic has also disrupted the grieving process – my mum had an accident and died very suddenly and unexpectedly, so there was no opportunity to say goodbye, there was no funeral, and I have no family members here to talk to. My immediate family all live in the same country where Mum passed away, but even they haven’t been able to get to her property due to lockdown. No one can get there except the executor, who is just a lawyer who didn’t know Mum at all. I had some more sad news last week. The property is a farm and includes horses, and one of them passed away a few days ago. It was as if I lost Mum all over again. The executor doesn’t know what to do with the horses, and several people are beginning to suggest euthanasia. Everything just feels so WRONG, so completely wrong. I miss my mum so much, and I want to do what’s right by her and what she would’ve wanted for her beloved animals. The practical problems just seem so enormous right now.

Hello, so sorry that I forgot to reply to you. It must be very difficult for you, I hope the horses are saved, my dad loved horses and used to take us to the last horse market in London, it would be very sad if they were all euthanised, please let us know how you are doing if you want to, as we’re all thinking of you.

Thank you Abdullah. I love horses too, which makes the situation so upsetting. I’ve been contacting horse sanctuaries and am being told again and again that COVID has affected their business and they can’t help. I worry about all the homeless animals in the world no longer being cared for. Even the RSPCA can’t help because the horses aren’t in a state of neglect yet. But the situation needs resolving somehow.

Hey, so sorry to hear about your mum and your current circumstances. My Dad passed away at home and wasn’t found for weeks later. It’s tough. Hope you manage to get over here. Xx

Sorry to hear about the awful scenario that you are having to deal with, it’s the last thing you need at this moment. Hoping that you manage to somehow find a positive resolution.

Thank you Steph. Yes it’s so hard knowing that your loved one died alone and in terrible pain. My mum wouldn’t have died if she’d had a mobile phone… (By the way, i live in the UK and my mum died at home in Australia. All the Australian borders are currently closed and there are no flights allowed in, so i’ve accepted the fact I won’t be able to get there.) If only I could rehome her horses I’d feel better. I still haven’t got anywhere with arranging a house clearance either, but the executor is being slow, so that’s OK.

It’s been just over 6 months since I lost my mum, and I haven’t been able to talk yet about how she died. I haven’t been sleeping all year, and I’ve been consumed by the way that she died. I don’t know if it will help to write it down, but I want to ‘get it out’ in the hope that I can stop replaying the scene over and over in my mind. (Please don’t read any further if you don’t want the grim details.)
So, Mum lived on a horse farm in Australia. She was 83 but super-fit (much fitter than me!). She emailed me in the morning, saying how much she missed me and wished I was there, then went out to groom her horses as usual.
I then didn’t hear from her for four days and started to worry, so I contacted her neighbour. He went to check on her but couldn’t find her, so he called the police. I waited 7 hours for the phone – the worst 7 hours ever. The policeman and the neighbour went out to search for Mum in the middle of the night with a torch. They finally found her just before 3am, face down in the mud in her horse paddock. She had died and her body was in quite a bad state (ants).
I later found out from the coroner that she’d fallen and broken her hip. She spent several days and nights trying to crawl back to the house. She made it quite a long way, but succumbed to her injury, hypothermia and dehydration. She had discarded her boots, socks, hat, coat and jumper at various points along the way because of the hypothermia, but still kept crawling towards the house in terrible pain.
I think she died like a solider left on a battlefield, or like a mountain climber stuck alone on a ledge – she essentially froze to death while making a super-human effort to get back home. (Apparently statistically it’s quite rare to die outdoors like that.) I think she probably would’ve phoned me in England before phoning for an ambulance. She never wanted to worry anyone or make a fuss.
I then had to call my relations in Australia and tell them the news, and at that point I went into shock. I don’t remember the phone calls now. I’ve found it very difficult to talk about how my mum died.
I’m so sorry she had to suffer alone when she needed me the most. I think she was incredibly brave and never gave up. I’m so proud to be her daughter, and I feel so lucky to have had her as my mother.

It is so sad to read about the horrific manner in which your mum died. Yes, it can be very difficult to talk about the details when the death happened in such an awful way, but now that you have written about it, hopefully you will feel slightly better. She does sound like a brave person, and you should certainly be proud to have her as your mum, as I am sure she was proud to have you as her daughter. Do you have any siblings or family members to share your grief with? I hope so, because it does seem a lot for one person to be burdened with on their own.

Oh my gosh. I honestly can’t even begin to imagine how you must feel. I would feel so powerless. My heart goes out to you, it really does <3

There’s no way of knowing whether my Dad truly did die in pain, but I presume he did. What gets me through is hoping it was fairly sudden and because he didn’t expect to die (which is awful in itself) I try to find comfort in that. He did not suffer for a long period of time. He wasn’t staring death in the face. His quality of life was good. Something happened very quickly, and although it may have been painful, nothing can hurt him now.

I also don’t like the idea of my Dad being dead at home for a long period of time without being found, but I tell myself, that’s what happens to a body when they pass away. (His body was in a very bad state - he hadn’t been found for weeks) (The soul had left the body and all that jazz)

I get what you say about the mobile phone comment. My Dad was found at the top of the stairs and his mobile was in the living room. I can think, IF ONLY you had your phone with you! You might have been able to call for help! Soo tough.

It really is such a trying time. I thought i’d share my experience in hope you might find some comfort in it yourself? Sending big hugs xx

Hope I haven’t said the wrong thing <3 Just read a comment of yours above. Words can’t express how sorry I am. You would have been her last thought <3

Thank you Steph – you haven’t said the wrong thing at all. It’s comforting to hear from someone else whose parent died alone and wasn’t discovered for a long time. It’s a unique set of circumstances to be dealing with, and very tough. My mum’s bravery is what I’m trying to focus on. I’ve also been comforted by the idea that I was my mum’s last thought – thank you for saying that. I’m still struggling with the house clearance happening without me. Mum would’ve hated having a lawyer go through all her cupboards. But she’s much more important to me than any possession could ever be. I just hope I can get basic things like photo albums, diaries and letters. COVID seems to have made the legal process grind to a halt. Australia is on very strict lockdown.