Probate Delirium

Kage Baker died over a year ago now, but some of the most mundane ripples are still coursing through the pond of my life. Which is a pretentious way of leading into the multi-dimensional horror that is … Probate. (Insert theramin chord here – ooo-eee-ooo-zing zing zing … )

(First, Dear Readers, I apologize for not being true to daily postings here – over the weekend I was counting things, and then on Monday I drove North. On Tuesday I made my obligatory court appearance and then drove straight home. Being either gibbering with terror or exhausted during most of this, I couldn’t get my brain in any shape to blog. I’ll make up for it now, though.)

Yestreday I had to be in court to submit and discuss the inventory of the wordly goods Kage left behind. Also, to explain why I had not submitted it earlier – which was pretty simple: no one had requested an inventory. Probate closed back in August, and as far as I knew, there was nothing left to do. I was, lamentably, wrong … I did know that, if an inventory was required, a notice would be sent to me. What I did not know was that if one were sent and I did not receive it, the next step was this summons to the judicial bench to explain my lack of appropriate response.

It must be noted: the folks in the San Luis Obispo County Probate Court are, one and all, very nice people. They deal with distraught folks all the time, and are gentle and polite. But they do not answer questions. Any questions. They most emphatically refuse to discuss anything that might be construed as legal advice. I can understand this – we live in a litigious society, and giving advice can get you in a lot of trouble.

But from time to time, this geas under which they operate produces insanity. I have been refused mailing addresses, on the grounds that telling me where the court was might be taken as advising me to use only that venue; instead, they gave me a website with all the courts and departments and divisions and told me to find it on my own. They will relay requests from the judge, but absolutely will not tell  me why he wants something patently absurd, nor if a form exists to fulfill the demand – naming a specific form evidently can also influence what you do, and thus be construed as legal advice.

Aaaargh. And yet, I do realize, Dear Readers,  that despite my travails and the very real pain they cause me, I am getting off easily. As Probates go, this is simple and swift in execution. Kage left no land, little physical property, no big-ticket items, no trusts, no savings – almost no money. However, this doesn’t seem to make any difference to the judicial juggernaut that must have every I crossed and every T dotted.

My favourite requirement thus far has been that I supply the court with a letter wherein Kage’s heir (one Kathleen Bartholomew) states that she has no opposition to Kage’s nominated executor (the same Kathleen Bartholomew) being approved by the Court. I had to sign the letter twice, too – once as heir and once as executor. I was reminded of the legal requirements of Hobbits’ wills; which need, as I recall, the signatures of 7 witnesses in red ink …

The judge was very sympathetic about my not getting the inventory request, and admitted no sign of it appeared in the file. But he still wants my explanation in writing. And as it turned out, hewanted more detail on the inventory I brought on Tuesday: which means, I guess, that now I have to itemize the dozen hoodies with different pirate motifs. Likewise the box full of Hawaiian shirts, and the other box full of logo T-shirts that had once amused Kage. The  huge plastic rings she collected in her teen-aged years, and never, ever wore: she just liked the colours, though they were actually fairly hideous examples of 1960’s kitsch. The contents of her desk will be especially hilarious – item, 1 wind up dinosaur that shoots sparks; item, 1 rubber figure of Mr. Krabs; item, 1 bottle full of water from Glastonbury Hill.

It has been suggested by a friend that future historians will be interested in this recounting of the material culture that produced Kage – well, good luck to them, says I: most of what made Kage herself happened in her head. She didn’t leave much behind to provide clues. But if some poor undergraduate someday finds relevance in the fact that she wore high-topped sneakers that left skull-and-crossbones footprints, more power to them! Historians need all the primary sources they can find. What Kage cherished may not give a look into anything resembling the cultural norms of her time (in which she had little interest) but it might explain the jackdaw fascination with shinies that she translated into her unique prose.

Or not. Who knows? But making the list will get the Court off my back, and maybe bring back to light something I have forgotten in the past year. No knowledge, after all, is useless.

So I’m heading back into the mind of Kage Baker: at least, as much of it as is represented by every version of Treasure Island she could lay her hands on, and a collection of back stage passes for Jethro Tull. I’ll let you know, Dear Readers, what else I find.

Tomorrow: driving through Pismo Beach with my eyes closed

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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8 Responses to Probate Delirium

  1. widdershins says:

    You exhibit the patience of … what was that biblical bloke’s name? … or better yet, Santoshi, Goddess of Patience… But aren’t you a little bit tempted to include the dust dragons under the bed, the residual traces of chemical compounds that Kage exhaled? … just to really fulfill their need for EVERYTHING to be inventoried.


  2. Margaret says:

    Good grief! Sheesh! and, as they say around here Hijola!! I hope a mood will descend upon you where you say, “Mwahaha1 You want more detail I’ll give you more , and more, and more: Item, one navy blue hooded sweatshirt (aka “hoodie”) with white depiction of Capt.Henry Morgan (a noted pirate) on the front; left sleeve cuff bearing a small dark-colored stain (possibly soy sauce); right rear hem showing a 1/2-inch tear resulting from a construction accident during the 1997 Dickens Fair in the San Francisco Bay area…” etc.

    Meanwhile, we faithful and expectant readers, pining mightily for a fix of Kage-and-Kathleen prose, will be exercising our possible evil-eye powers on any persons who have been, are, or will be distracting you from what we’d rather have you be doing. Probably what you’d rather be doing, too. I’m very sorry that this Kafkaesque routine has you in its clutches. Would it help to go eat a large chocolate something- or-other, in the knowledge that the Cholesterol Police would Just Hate It? Do, then.

    Hoping there’s an end to the tiresomeness. And soon.


  3. Valerie says:

    Good heavens! It would have been easier to just steal all the stuff (but how could you steal it when it’s yours? Madness everywhere…) I really hope it’s simpler in Alabama; I can just see my husband popping an artery and expiring on the spot if a court demands that he inventory all my clothes and chingamungas.

    Feeling an urge to read Bleak House again…


  4. Teri Pettit says:

    Wow, this is incredible. I never would have expected that estate inventories expect that level of detail. Makes me think I had better get rid of all my worldly goods before I die, lest my daughter be saddled with detailing every one of the 10000 or so books, 3000 or so paper dolls, etc. that I’ve hoarded over the years.


  5. Kate says:

    I originally thought it was just this particular judge, demanding so much detail on such a small estate. Now I think it’s just the nature of probate; I have a suspicion that the rules have not been changed in a century or two. I would advise the still living to make lists before hand, though – what you have, what you want to go to specific persons, what must be kept, what can be dispensed with. Someone will thank you fervently, probably someone you know well and love.


  6. Tom says:

    I had better start getting rid of stuff Right Now; it could take twenty years at my current pace, which is likely to get slower.


  7. Kate says:

    Tom – an occasional purge of the Stuff is a good idea anyway. I d0 it annually. However, Kage more than compensated for my frugality and ruthlessness by keeping everything. She even went out of her way to replace things from earlier in her life that had been lost. Not a hoarder – everything had a purpose, and there was no need for game trails through our house. But she was a freaking SQUIRREL at heart.


  8. Luisa Puig Duchaineau says:

    Jumping Jehosophat (sp?)! I’ve been through probate court now four (count ’em, 4) times and *never* was that insane level of detail requested nor required. Now tediously meticulous that I am (OCD Deluxe), I have taken photographs and made albums of genuine ‘estate’ items that should be of interest to Probate (and most certainly heirs of said estate, too). The photos were considered ‘good enough’ for both insurance reckoning (which turned out never necessary, thank heavens), and for the will of the deceased, especially since the not-yet-deceased (sometimes by decades before the event) was often in the photo, and/or narrating what each item was on video tape. FWIW, those photos were all old-style film and prints, which not only last longer than hard drives, etc., but were also easier to find when needed.

    But lists of hoodies, stockings, knick-knacks, et al? INSANE!! Getting appraisals of genuine ‘estate’ quality stuff, sure. Anything else is darn close to harassment!

    Looking back, I think the video tape was the most useful and valuable. Also, it’s a sad sort of sweet to see and hear Mumzy again laughing over all the stories that went with her little ‘treasures.’ Ah-me, I’d give everything back to have her and her laughter again.

    Last aside: Patience of Job. Not that I’m a Bible Scholar or anything, but that particular phrase always amused me for some warped reason.

    Hugs and strength, Kathleen. Also lots of chocolate!


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