A Deep Legal Talk On Grief With Lawyer Michelle Farley

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | Michelle Farley | Legal Talk

 

Losing a loved one is not just a roller coaster of emotions; it is also an experience full of legalities and paperwork. In this episode, I sit down with lawyer Michelle Farley to have a legal talk about grief, exploring how to get organized for the eventual passing of a partner, a parent, a relative, or even yourself. She explains the importance of preparing a last will, getting into trust, the benefits of life insurance, and making funeral plans with the most beloved people in your life. Michelle also discusses the complexities of having a grief brain, exploring why you should not make major financial decisions a year after the passing of a loved one.

Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach.

I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.

Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide.

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A Deep Legal Talk On Grief With Lawyer Michelle Farley

In this episode, our guest is a lawyer from Pennsylvania. Her name is Michelle Farley. She is going to cover some essential topics that are very critical in dealing with grief and the loss of a loved one. Let’s get into the conversation.

 

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | Michelle Farley | Legal Talk

 

All About Michelle

In this episode, our guest is a lawyer from Pennsylvania. Her name is Michelle Farley. I want to be specific in the idea that she has legal information to share with us but she’s also speaking from the perspective of law as it relates to the state of Pennsylvania. This information is going to be helpful because it will give you that cornerstone of information to broaden your reach with your local lawyer and find out where you need to go and what you need to do. This will be a jump-off point for you. Welcome, Michelle Farley.

Tina, thank you so much for inviting me. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity. You’re well aware that you and I go way back in time. I’m going to introduce myself and then explain a little bit about our background in terms of how we know each other. My name is Michelle Farley. I’m an attorney, practicing in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. That’s Monroe County, Pennsylvania. This is where Tina lived not too long ago.

I have to give the disclaimer that we have not formed an attorney-client relationship between me and the readers. Also, I’m not giving specific legal advice to anyone to your readers but rather this is general information, which I’m hoping that your readers will find helpful. I have been an attorney shockingly for many years. It’s hard for me to believe.

Basic summary of my practice, and I won’t go into too much detail, but after college, I attended law school at New York University. My first job was clerking for a Federal Judge in Baltimore. When somebody knew they wanted to be a courtroom lawyer, usually, the best first job is to work for a judge so you can see other lawyers in action and that’s what I did.

From there, I joined a huge law firm in Washington, D.C. At that time, there were over 1,000 lawyers in private practice there. Interestingly, during the time that I worked there, there was a young partner there named John Roberts. He’s the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. It was where a lot of the movers and shakers were at that time right in the thick of things in Washington, D.C.

I was there for about six years, getting my feet under me, getting some good training, and learning from older lawyers and then I moved to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania after getting married. My husband and I wanted to be in a more rural country area. He identified the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania as a good spot.

As Tina knows, my husband was a big hunter and fisherman so he wanted to be in the woods somewhere, and poking them out fit the bill. For a couple of years, I didn’t practice law. I worked as an Environmental Project Manager in a non-legal position but then I did open my office in 1999 in Pennsylvania after passing the bar examination and getting licensed here. I met Tina around 2003 or 2004. Is that right, Tina?

It was right around 2000. Catherine was starting kindergarten in the Pocono. We have relocated from Virginia to Pennsylvania. We went to Pennsylvania because our children were young and Mark was from Bloomsburg. It was a good opportunity for the children to be close to his family. Also, Mark was working in New York as an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers electrician.

The time has come for Catherine to go to school. This part I thought was very interesting for the area that they allowed the parents to ride the bus route that their children would go on. You would be acclimated to your child’s route. When I got on the bus, we made assessments of everything and I looked at a few ladies in the back and they looked click-ish. They looked to me, some stay-at-home moms, which I was but I was in transition.

I looked at Michelle and she was sitting there. She wore a suit but if she had that demeanor, I was like, “She’s my people.” I went and sat next to her and started chatting up a little bit. “You didn’t want to just sit by yourself.” She was sitting there so properly and back straight. Michelle and her family are tall. I’m like, “Yes, tall women.” They look professional. I was like, “I’m right here. This is who I’m sitting next to.”

Tina and I chose each other. We had the same energy. Tina was a tax professional at the time and I was starting my law office. We developed a friendship immediately because of the kids. Also, we were drawn to each other. I’m 6 feet. You’re about 6 feet tall. We both have an athletic background. Our children, interestingly, were the same age. We both have a boy and a girl. Your girl’s older and my boy’s older but they were in the same grade in the school. That was interesting. We clicked right away.

From 1999 until about 2012, I had my law office in Cresco, Pennsylvania. For a lot of that time, Tina served as the bookkeeper from my office as well, which was interesting because we managed to have a professional relationship and be friends. Our children were friendly. We have some interesting stories, Tina and I, and one of them is about the first house that Tina lived in the Poconos.

With where it was situated, if there was a heavy storm, she found out the hard way that the basement, which was a finished play area, was going to flood. I remember getting that call and she said, “There is 3 feet of water.” Mark was away and I said, “I’m coming to get the kids. Pack the bags.” They came and stayed over because she was concerned about keeping her eye on the water and moving belongings up and out of the water. It was a mess. Eventually, she moved beyond that house.

We called that the Farley Law flood something event. It was a whole name that the children had about that. They’re all excited that they get to play and I’m over here freaking out. I thought, “Why are we naming things?” They had a good time with that. I forgot about that.

We have a lot of memories. I’m going back and forth to my Tina history, law history, and general time.

For perspective, I rented some office space. It was down the road from Michelle. I eventually purchased a building. Our practices were very close in proximity. If I had someone that needed legal assistance, I would send them down to Michelle. She had clients who needed accounting, bookkeeping, or tax services. It worked well.

Hopefully, I don’t mess up but when I left Pennsylvania, I had this desk that was beautiful. Michelle would come down and talk to me about business. It’s like she was dating my desk. She would come down and say how nice it was. When I left, she took it. I was so glad to give that to her. When I was going down a couple of times and saw it in her office, I was like, “It looks so nice right here.”

That was a historic handmade desk handmade by a cabinet maker in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, which is our county seat. His label is located underneath the bottom of one of the drawers. When I closed my office, we delivered that desk to the Monroe County courthouse. I believe it’s in the Monroe County courthouse still. I never told you that. That was a beautiful desk so thank you.

I don’t even know how I came across that or how that even happened.

General Civil Litigation

That was an enormous desk. A little bit more about my background, I want to tell the readers something about what type of law I did so they can understand one of the reasons you would have asked me to be here. I was a General Civil Litigation Attorney when I left Washington, D.C. doing business disputes because I was at a very large firm. When I came to a small town, I had to adjust what types of litigation were there.

There were evictions and divorces so I started doing those. There was probate, the legal process after someone dies. I started doing that. I took a lot of continuing legal ed classes. I worked under some local attorneys who were very skilled in probate litigation. I learned the process from the ground up. When you practice law in a small town, that’s what you have to do. You become a jack of all trades but you have to be careful and be good at each one of them. Otherwise, that’s a danger.

When a lawyer practices in a small town, they become a jack-of-all-trades. However, they must be careful and good at each one. Otherwise, it might be dangerous for their career. Share on X

You mentioned probate. Is that also the umbrella that one would connect with wills and trusts? Do they fall under the same umbrella?

This is how we use the nomenclature. If you’re coming to me to prepare your will, we call that trust in the state work. If the person has already passed and you’re in shock and you’re coming to me like, “What do I do legally,” that’s the probate process. I’m going to jump into that a little bit here.

No, go ahead with that. That’s fine. I know people will be thinking, “How does that relate?” Thank you.

After I had done my practice around 2011 and 2012, I started thinking that I like to go back to a firm. I located a firm locally, which at the time was the largest firm in our area. They had four offices but we’re in a very small area. There were only 5 or 6 lawyers. I was the sixth lawyer. I joined Fisher & Fisher Law Offices and I was with them for eleven years.

I left them to have more time to help and assist my parents who were both getting older and dealing with some health issues, my stepmom as well, and some other family things that I needed time for. Since then, I’ve formed my LLC again. I have all my licensing and insurance so I’m back up and running. We don’t have enough lawyers in our area so people are finding.

If someone wants to work with you, they’re in the Pennsylvania area, and they need a Pennsylvania lawyer, what is the name of your firm? How would they find you?

Working With Tina

Farley Law LLC and the website is www.FarleyLawLLC.com. The best way for someone to make a first contact with me is by email. It’s searchable in my inbox and that would be FarleyLaw01@Outlook.com. I had mentioned that I had started doing probate work and estate planning. I had learned the required pieces to prepare someone’s last will and testament. I may have assisted Tina and Mark in doing the wills. I can’t even remember.

You did Mark’s mother’s will and the will for Mark and me. You did assist me with some probate because we had found that there was one item that Mark forgot to name me as. No one else was named, just to be clear. We had to do that and that was a very small piece. We were pretty good with all the documentation.

Jumping into that timeframe after Mark’s passing, this was a shocking event. It happened suddenly. I’ll never forget when Tina called me and let me know. I was standing in my kitchen in absolute shock. The shock poured over into my practice because up until that point, I had only dealt with elders passing. Mark was not an elder and it opened my eyes like, “Someone could pass at that young age.” His passing changed so many people’s lives. It was the ripple effect of people that were affected. It was an unbelievable thing.

Michelle was at my house. She’s bringing food. She’ll whip up. I don’t know if we’ll get any of her impersonations but Michelle is good at that and very funny. You may not do that now because she’s got her legal mind on but my girlfriend, Michelle, will start cooking up something right away and bringing it. There was a story that I shared about the pearl necklace that Catherine gave me.

You were there when Catherine gave that to me that day and said that this was a necklace that Mark had and had been keeping. There were a lot of different parts in my life when Michelle and I were front and center. When I was recovering from cancer, we were going for walks together. As she says we’re athletic, this is someone she knew would go out running with Alexander in the morning for a 2 or 3-mile run. As her friend, they could barely walk to the mailbox at the end of the block and then walk back. She has seen me in so many states and knows me truly from so many different angles.

When I was preparing for this, Tina, I forgot about your cancer.

That was the biggest thing that marked.

A lot was going on in your life. I remember one time, your transportation to your cancer treatment got canceled and you called me. You have a big circle of friends and those are among your blessings but I was happy to do that. I don’t want to get emotional.

You are right. I am truly blessed and that’s why when I started talking to other people who are widows and widowers, they were telling me they had nobody. After a short period, people would tell them, “Why are you still talking about that? Why are you still sad?” You are a testament to that. Not a single friend, as I am going into years of Mark’s passing, has ever told me, “Why are you talking about him?”

I’ve had people say, “How could you have gotten remarried?” You were somebody who has seen me through this journey. You saw me in love with Mark every day and yet still celebrated as I continued living and found a new love. It’s that transparency in our relationship. I am blessed. When she took me, let’s be clear, she picked me up and I fell asleep going and coming back because I was exhausted from the treatment. I forgot about that part.

Funny Sleepover Story

I won’t stop talking often and on that ride back, I kept telling stories and I would look over, “She’s sleeping again.” I do have one funny story. One of the things that Tina was good at doing was recognizing when she needed to connect with girlfriends during her phase of grief. She had some good friends and neighbors, Dawn, next door, and I came over. You invited Dawn, me, and another woman. We had girl’s movie night and slept over. We were drinking wine and you said, “I don’t want you girls going home so pack your bag.”

Dawn didn’t stay over because she lived right next door. You didn’t want me to get in the car so I stayed over, I remember that. This is a funny story. Tina was very good about organizing activities and trying to connect and keep herself busy. One thing she did was order the food that came in a box with all the ingredients. You prepare the food once it arrives. She said, “Come on over. It’s a meal for two. We’re going to make this meal.”

I go over there. We open the box and the ingredients. “Look at this and this. Let’s keep reading the directions.” We must’ve read those directions five times and each thing we did it as it was supposed to be. All of a sudden, we’re starting to smell something that smells burnt. Tina said, “Wait a minute. My oven works. It’s true to temperature. I don’t know what is going on. Why does it smell like that?” Don’t you know, the smoke alarm goes off. Into her driveway pulls two local volunteer firemen. They weren’t in a fire truck. They were in a station wagon or something crazy.

It’s a small town so I knew who the guys were. I forget who it was but I addressed them by name. They were surprised to see me come out of her house. We were laughing. We had been drinking wine and they didn’t believe us that there was no fire. When we said, “We just burned dinner,” they said, “Are you sure? Is this all right? What’s going on here?” We couldn’t stop laughing. They didn’t want to leave. We finally said, “Just go. We’re fine.” We ate that dinner and it was fun.

That got us laughing as it does still. The laughing was good. Tina was smart enough to know when she needed to connect. She wasn’t afraid to reach out to her friends and say, “I need a night with you. You’re coming over.” Friends are very scared in general to reach out to the new widow. Everybody’s like, “Hands off. I don’t know what she’s thinking. If she’s not thinking about his death, I don’t want to remind her of his death.” This is how the friends think. Tina was better than most in this process. First of all, she’s an educated, intelligent woman and she’s in touch with her emotions. She knew what she needed and she wasn’t afraid to ask her friends for that.

Thank you. I am grateful for you sharing that because when I talk to people about this process, my three elements are one, check in with yourself. If you’re checking in with yourself and you see that you’re low, you’re stuck, and you are in a place that you don’t want to be in, the second step is community. That community may be your journal, mental health professional, or your friends and family.

When you make that first step of that assessment and you realize you can’t handle this, then you need to reach out to the community because the people that love you are waiting and they don’t know what to do. Sometimes you have to guide them. Once you give them that openness, then they know, “This is how I can show up.” They’re waiting on the edge or sideline like, “Put me in, coach. I’m ready but I don’t know what to do.”

Once I gave them that opportunity, the third step was moving. That movement was engaging like, “I need you to come over.” After I did that, they were fine to check in if it had been a while like, “I know now I have permission to check in on her and ask how she’s doing because I did that.” Those three steps are what I was doing from the beginning, being in touch with my emotions, engaging the community, and then deciding how to move and make that work to get me out of that spot. I forgot about the sleepovers. That was so fun.

A Mother With Dementia

It was a great idea. Let me transition into discussing a couple of basics. You already did this transition for me talking about the basics of grief. I say these things with full knowledge. Many of your readers have gone through this in a way that I have not. Mark’s passing was something that affected so many people and got people thinking, “This could happen so suddenly.” Many people contacted me to have their will done after his passing because they were thinking about it for the first time.

This is a very general thing but you know the phrase, “Nobody’s going to get out of here alive.” That’s a way of saying we’re all going to die. Sometimes, you’re not ready to hear that phrase. Most of us go through life thinking, and certainly, I did until Mark’s passing. I have longevity in my family. People do not die young. They live into their upper 80s. I’ve always thought, “I don’t smoke. I eat right. I don’t go skydiving.” My husband has and wants to go again. “I don’t do these things. I live a pretty safe life. I’ll be fine and I’m going to live a long time.”

We can’t think that way. That’s a dangerous way to think. Many of your readers are widows or widowers. Perhaps some readers have lost a child or a sibling at a younger age. I’m speaking in America in my experience. If someone dies above an age that we feel is older or elderly, people don’t think anything of it. I’m going to draw a line at 70. You hear of somebody over 70 who dies. We’re sad but we’re not shocked.

 

 

Some people have lost someone, as you have, much younger. Some people have lost a young child. Some people have lost a twin. When you get into the issue of grief and loss, it’s very deep. Preparing for this show had me thinking about some loss that I’ve experienced. I thought about my mother-in-law, who I was extremely close with.

She came and lived with me and my husband. We were her primary caretakers for the last two and a half years of her life. I was the primary caretaker because his job forced him to travel a lot and he agreed that I was the primary caretaker, even for the tasks of daily care, feeding her, bathing her, and cleaning her after the messes. We got down to the nitty-gritty.

I remember it’s sometimes wanting to go do something. You loved her. You were not just doing it to check a block for your husband. You were loving that woman like it was your mother and I watched you do that without any hesitation. It was like, “It’s not working where she’s at. We need to move it here.” You were head into doing that. I watched that in awe.

I learned a lot during that process. I appreciate you saying that, Tina. My mother-in-law had dementia. We didn’t know what it was at first. I, unfortunately, became an expert in dementia care. It started with moving her out of our house into one of our rental properties when she wasn’t too bad off yet and then adding in four hours a day of nursing care.

Dementia is a cliff. It went from half a day of nursing care to her needing to be in a nursing home. We realized we put her in the wrong nursing home and they didn’t have the top-notch dementia care that we wanted for her. We moved her to another place. Ultimately, we lost her in July of 2020 during a very difficult time to lose an elder in a nursing home because we were not allowed in after COVID. She had dementia. We asked the staff to do FaceTime calls. She was asking us, “Why are the Martian men here?” They had on the plastic covers for the germs and she thought they were Martians. She was afraid all the time.

Grief Brain

Don’t get me started on COVID because in a lot of ways, that was the death of the America that we knew and we’re living in a post-apocalyptic world since COVID. It has taken so much from this country but that’s a discussion for another time. I want to focus a little bit more on grief and what it is. This is not something I made up and something that I would be able to articulate from her firsthand experience but there is something called the Grief Brain. The grief brain is defined as when you are overloaded with grief, sadness, or loneliness. It is proven scientifically that the grief brain affects your memory, concentration, and cognition.

It is because the amygdala takes it as a trauma event so the brain is trying to protect you. There’s some swelling that takes place. There is memory loss and the ability to process and do things. People use the term Grief Fog or Grief Wave but there is scientifically proven as you’re talking about and that is why people serve themselves better if they pace themselves. If you start identifying what to eliminate from your schedule, everything does not have to be done because you do not oftentimes have the mental capacity. Life does continue.

Going back to the community, sometimes people have individuals in their lives that will take some of the weight off of them but you have to convey that to them. Thank you for mentioning that because that part of how the brain functions is something we need to be aware of, whether we are the person grieving or not. When we see a person behaving out of sorts, there’s a real reason for this. It is the sadness, those stages of grief, but also what the body does naturally when you have a traumatic event, that fight or flight. What that looks like is different ways that grief impacts the body. Thank you for mentioning that.

I picked that up from the Hospice.com website. I want you to know I’m not making that up. I did some research and preparation for this. I will tell you my personal experience in dealing with your loss of Mark. The first time I went to your house after he passed, we sat out on that little porch that you had there. You were in an absolute shock and that shock shocked me because you were always large and in charge, retired Army, “Here comes Tina, a super mom.” Everybody’s straightened up when Tina walks into the room. This is how you were, which is what I loved about you but I came home and I told my husband, “It’s bad. She’s in real shock and she is fragile like an eggshell.”

Thank you for mentioning that because so many people see with this part and that’s not what I looked like then. I looked like somebody who knew how to stare off into space. It scared my friends because it was like, “I had never seen her like this. This is bad.” Thank you because that is the reality of it.

You were sitting on that porch staring into the distance. Even your home and environment, I said to my husband, “Everything was always so in her home but things are in disarray, which is another signal to me that she is not doing well.”

You didn’t try to fix it. You didn’t try to come in and go, “The house is a mess.” What you said is what I try to tell people. You sat with me right where I was and that was good enough. You love me, I see my friend, and I’m going to be here with her because you can’t make Mark come back but what people can do is sit, understand this is what it looks like, and be there with them.

I remember asking you if I could clean your house, not on that occasion but later, and you declined. I had to say, “It’s fine. Do you want me to hire someone to come in here?” “Nope.” In your mind, you wanted to do it your way or you and the kids were going to do it. I don’t know what piles of paper or what. At that time, we were already worried about Mark’s bills and what’s the probate process. You’re like, “The dining room table got papers and bills but don’t touch anything.” I was like, “Fine.”

Three C’s Of Grieving

The first time I asked you to go on a walk in your neighborhood, because you were in that nice flat neighborhood, all these little streets connected to walk. It was a no. You didn’t have the energy. I was like, “It’s fine.” You have to meet the person where they’re at. Let’s go back to what I said. The grief brain has compromised memory, concentration, and cognition. That’s going to play into what I’m about to say because I’m going to move into the legal part. They traditionally talk about the three Cs of grieving. You didn’t use letter C words but you spoke about this.

The three letter C words are Choose, Connect, and Communicate. You used Community. If you’re going through a grief process, choose carefully who you spend your time with and how you spend your time. Don’t try to entertain friends if you’re getting a bad vibe from them or not the right vibe. Connect and reach out to friends or support groups. Connect to your church. If you can’t find a support group, you can talk to a priest or pastor. If you have not been part of a church, it might be a good time to think about joining one to get through this process at a minimum.

 

 

We have a support group that meets on the second Thursday of the month. We have a men’s only support group. On the last Thursday of the month, I host a support group. That’s all you can find on Eventbrite or go to our website Widowhood-RealTalkWithTina.org. Select Events and the support group are right there.

I’m glad to hear that. The third C is Communicate. Communicate with whoever you get the right energy from. What are the unhealthy ways of dealing with grief? Unfortunately, these are common ways that you see people dealing with grief, denial, isolation, and drinking or drugs.

You’re meaning to the amount of being obsessive with it. We drank wine and I reeled in but it’s like when that goes on for a long period where that becomes your main coping skill. That is when it becomes very dangerous.

We had one glass of wine. We’ve always been pretty moderate. There are a lot of people and people like to generalize and say it’s the men who are in denial. It’s also women that are in denial. It’s men and women who isolate themselves because they’re so afraid of, “How do I get back into social life?” It’s men and women that drink or do drugs. It’s not a good idea. What are some healthy ways to remove grief from your body? This is not my suggestion. This is out there in the medical community.

I would always recommend counseling. If you’re someone who has a wall-up about counseling, try journaling. I do know a couple of men who are very reluctant to counseling but they’re willing. If I hand them a blank journal and say, “I have a gift for you after the passing of your relative,” they will journal. You don’t have the help of a professional back and forth but yoga, walking, and dancing help. You can dance in your home if nobody’s watching.

I want to add to that, Michelle. Those are all good tips. I’m not quite sure if one would remove grief from themselves but it would give them the capacity to learn how to manage the grief. When that loved one dies, that is the biggest thing in your life. It consumes every moment and instance. Those coping skills that you mentioned help you regain your life and start making your life bigger than that instance of grief. It starts helping your brain to start having the capacity to recall the memories of the love.

For such a period, all you remember is they died, that death, and that horrible moment of it. You can’t even remember the love or recall the good times. Those things that you mentioned will help you to start managing the grief, be able to house it differently, and start reclaiming your life. At some point, there will always be a part of that grief that will be with you. It may never be removed but it will give you the ability to manage and house it differently.

That’s a point to be made by someone who’s been through it in a way I have not. Thank you for clarifying that.

You’re welcome. Thank you for those points. That is solid advice.

Last Will And Testament I

Maybe some of your readers still have their spouse with them and maybe some of your readers have lost someone older. Maybe they’ve lost their parent or an in-law and it’s got them thinking, “What are the things legally that I should be doing to get organized and prepare for my eventual passing or that of my spouse?” I want to segue a little bit into the legalities of it all. I certainly recommend everyone prepare a last will and testament.

Your last will and testament is an opportunity for you to put in writing, who should get what? If you’re in a married couple, typically, the husband leaves everything to the wife and the wife leaves everything to the husband. If they have children, there’s a paragraph that says, “In the event we die together,” which a car accident is the most common way, then to the children.

What happens if you don’t have a last will and testament? Every jurisdiction has an intestacy law that says the priority of who gets what. In almost every state, if the person’s married, their spouse gets everything and it goes through a hierarchy. If they’re not married, if they’re married with children, if they’re married and have children, not all of whom are also their children, that’s a reference to blended families. More and more reasons to do some planning and thinking.

Find a reliable, reasonably priced, trustworthy, trust in a state lawyer in your jurisdiction. Ask your friends who they use to prepare their will. Ask for a short ten-minute consultation on the phone, see if you get a good feeling from the person, and then make an appointment in person. You shouldn’t be rushed through the process. Your question should be answered.

Benefits Of Same-Sex Marriage

Michelle, I have a question on that as it relates to the state of Pennsylvania. Let me be clear. The question is in relation to the state of Pennsylvania. Are you able to expound on how the state of Pennsylvania deals with same-sex common partners or domestic partners that did not have a legal marriage and how that would look as far as an instance of one of them passed?

We have legalized same-sex marriage, which to have legal recognition of your relationship is significant. I have a lot of neighbors and acquaintances that have been in a long-term relationship, whether they’re same-sex or opposite-sex and they don’t want to be married. They may have an anti-government feeling and a little bit more different hippie-ish counterculture but I try to explain to them that there are significant legal benefits to being married. That’s true in the state of Pennsylvania, which I’m going to get into.

The number one benefit is if you’re with someone for a long time and you’ve purchased real estate and acquired assets together, in Pennsylvania, we are one of only six states in America that poses a taxation on death. We tax the event of dying so that means there’s an inheritance tax. Some people call it a State Death Tax. I’m jumping ahead here but I’ll get into it because your question addresses this.

If you are in a couple, you’re not married, and your boyfriend or girlfriend dies, you’re going to pay a significant estate tax. It’s 12%. If you’re married, it’s 0%. If two married people die together in a car accident at the same time and they’ve left everything to their children, then it’s a 4.5% death tax due to the state of Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and it’s due 9 months from the date of death.

If you are not married to your partner and they die, you will have to pay a significant estate tax. But if you are married, you will face zero taxes. Share on X

If there are two married people, be they same sex or not, the first one who dies does not owe inheritance tax but they have to prepare the tax return and file it because Harrisburg wants to know what they own. It’s just giving Harrisburg an inventory of what the assets are. When the second person dies, that inheritance tax becomes due. That’s why in Pennsylvania, you need a lawyer upon the death of the second person and sometimes upon the death of the first person. That gets into probate and what the process is. Was that helpful?

Yes, thank you very much.

Last Will And Testament II

Let’s go back for a minute to the last will and testament. Another reason to do that is that you could name your executor or executrix. Typically, if you’re married, that’s going to be your spouse and that’s the person that’s going to meet with the lawyer upon the death of the other person. You can name a guardian for your children. I tell people all the time, “If you have children, you need to meet with me and we need to get your will done. Even if you’re renting and you don’t own a home, you want to name your guardian. Who’s going to raise your children? We don’t want to leave that decision to the state.” That’s important.

The wishes for your last bodily remains. You get to identify if you want burial or cremation. Some people are adamant, “I don’t want a service.” If they’re not religious and they don’t want the money spent on it, they feel their estate is going to be very small and they don’t want the money spent. You can identify a service to be held at the convenience of your family if they so desire. On the other side, if you’re very involved in your pastor and church. “I want the service to be held here at my home church.” You can identify that.

You can go into incredible detail in a will. You can have an outfit but your spouse isn’t going to know that unless you say, “This is the outfit. It’s on the hanger.” My mother-in-law identified a photo. It was an 8×10 glossy photo that she had taken during her Mary Kay days. She told my husband, “This is the photo. Make sure you use this photo because I have my hair and makeup done.” Those are the types of details that you can communicate with your spouse.

If you have children, what are the elements of raising your children that are important to you? These are communications that we often don’t think about having. If I’m crossing the railroad tracks and I don’t see that train coming, maybe I should say to my husband, “Now that we have kids, it’s very important to me that you take them to church and be involved in a church. I want them to have religion in their upbringing.” If you’re an atheist, “I don’t want them going to church.” Some atheists are out there and active.

“I want the kids to go to private school. I want the kids to go to parochial school. I want the kids to be homeschooled.” Whatever it is, how would your spouse know? I have a friend, a man who lost his wife very suddenly when she was 34 years old. They had two young boys, 3 and 5. I told him I was doing this show. I have 4 or 5 friends who I asked for advice, all of whom lost someone very close. He said, “I never got to talk to her about raising the kids and what was important to her. I wish I did that. I found out after she died that she was hiding and stashing cash in case of emergency. Her mother told me that but I never found it and we think it was about $10,000.”

Those are good points. I talk about that with people. Having those conversations about what your significant other wants takes the pressure off in so many different ways. Mark and I spoke about how he wanted to get cremated. He spoke about where he wanted some of his ashes to be done. We talked about if he left this world early, what my life would look like in continuation, and whether that would be economically and if I were to redate and married. Those are difficult conversations to have but they were so necessary.

When he passed at 51, I didn’t have to second guess myself about things that he needed. You want to honor your loved one and do those last things that you feel like they wanted to make sure that you upheld their wishes but if you never knew, you have no concept. We had legal guardians placed for our children, identified their godparents, and that they would also be the executors of our states if we both passed. Having a will in place, naming each other, paying on death for, and having conversations, “What do you need economically if I’m no longer here that you can continue a quality of life,” having those things in place is a game changer.

Trust And Living Will

It was still difficult as it was but you had a lot of preparation in place. Imagine if you had no preparation in place. Let’s go back to the list we talked about, last will and testament. Maybe you and your partner should talk about establishing a trust. Maybe you do have assets. Maybe you own a home, a vacation home, or a rental property. Maybe you have two rental properties, multiple dwelling properties, and income coming in from the properties. Maybe you should have a trust.

I don’t prepare trusts but I have a professional relationship with lawyers locally, where I could refer someone to them if the client needs a trust. Revocable versus irrevocable trusts. A revocable trust means you can change your mind, take assets out of it, and change who’s going to be the beneficiary of that. Irrevocable means you lose a lot of control but you also have benefits in terms of Medicare planning. You could have your spouse go to a nursing home if they need skilled nursing care. You won’t be forced to sell your home.

Your spouse doesn’t own the house, the trust does because you’ve prepared a written trust document, you’ve signed it, and then you’ve deeded your house to the trust. We’re in a time where I see a backlash against lawyers. I do see it certainly on social media. We all have immediate access to information, which is good and bad, but we have to know when we’re not expert enough and could benefit from the expertise of someone else. Half the people that I speak to each week, their legal problem was made much worse because they tried to take steps on their own unadvised by a lawyer. That’s why I encourage people to find a lawyer they trust.

 

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | Michelle Farley | Legal Talk

 

How about a living will? Have you and your spouse discussed what would happen? Mark had a sudden and dramatic heart attack. I have other friends whose spouses died from an illness, a long illness, a course of illness, MS, cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. The list goes on and on. Also, COVID. Do you want to be put on a breathing machine? This was all prompted in each of the states.

Every state adopted a law and it was prompted by the woman, Terri Schiavo, in Florida, who was a young mother put on a breathing apparatus. Her husband and she had talked. She wouldn’t want to live in a coma or a vegetative state but her parents did not want that equipment disconnected. Almost all states have a law that allows you to select while you’re healthy and able. Do you want to be attached to machines? That only comes into play in Pennsylvania if you’re already in the process of dying.

The living will isn’t even shown to the doctors or brought out unless you’re at the end of stage four cancer, we’ve done all the treatments and clinical trials, or you’ve been hit by a bus crossing the road, massive head injury, a vegetative state, maybe been in a coma for weeks or months, and then the doctor says, “There’s nothing more I can do.” It’s a time when a spouse is almost in a grieving process. Their partner’s still here but they’re not capable of making that decision. I encourage people to prepare a living will.

You make a good point, Michelle, because we were in Delaware when Mark had the heart attack but Mark had a living will. We both had that already drawn up. I remember as the night was going on, one of the doctors came to me and I said, “He does have a living will.” I didn’t have it with me because we were on vacation but having that core knowledge, I knew that I was making decisions that were fine with him, exercising his desire. When the doctor asked me, I could speak on what he wanted and what he didn’t want.

It’s the pressure that it took off of me and not having to say what if, wondering if I made the right decision if I did that. He eventually coded so many times and expired naturally. I didn’t have to evoke any of those things but knowing that already was a good decision that we made in our marriage, and I’m glad that we did. I do recommend it to people. It’s another one of those hard conversations but so essential to have. We talk about so many things in the marriage. We need to talk about things like that that will matter a lot later.

It’s difficult to bring those things up. I assume I prepared the living will and we had that conversation in my office.

It was with the will and everything else but we were very adamant about wanting to have those things in place. It’s not if something happens. The reality is when. The more that you have in place, it’s that anticipatory grief where you’re already leaning in and then trying to make these heavy decisions and your mind is getting cloudy, it’s better to have those documents written up and drawn so you know what the person wants.

Bank Accounts And Life Insurance

I see situations frequently where someone is in a coma or slipped into a coma. I might get a phone call from their spouse saying to me, “His adult kids from the first marriage don’t want to let me disconnect him from life support but I know he didn’t want to be on life support.” You can avoid those situations by filling out a living well. Another thing for you to discuss with your partner is to prepare, take out a blank piece of paper, and write down all the account numbers and bank accounts.

With fraud, they’re saying it’s best to not do it on your computer. They’re saying take out a pen and paper and you need to both know where that’s being kept. Account numbers and passwords. Many people do not know all of the assets that their spouse has. It’s not because they’re being secretive but it’s because they’re good at saving. They open this account here, “I have a little retirement here. I left the job ten years ago but there’s still an IRA there.” You might not even know it.

I am a big fan of life insurance as an estate planning tool. This is very helpful in a blended family. People will come to me and say, “All of my kids are from before my wife. She and I don’t have kids together because we got married at 48 or 52.” I love life insurance as a planning tool because I can say to him, “Are you healthy? Do you still have no diagnosis, especially if you’re a non-smoker? You can sit on your laptop, go on AARP or other websites, and buy life insurance.”

“Buy a life insurance policy for however much you can afford the premiums on, term life, and name your kids. We can do your will separately. Now I know your kids are going to get something.” We can say in your will, “I have these children. I love them all equally. My wife and I live in the house together so I’ve chosen to provide for them through life insurance.” Pay your premiums every year and don’t let that policy lapse.

You speak to my situation. Fred and I got married in our 50s. This body is not doing that anymore. What I have already decided and what he decided for his children, we laid all that out. We went to a lawyer and laid all those different things out. You don’t want it to be messy when the inevitable happens. The more that you can lean in, stop the family bickering, and all those different things.

We’ve let all our children know this is what we’ve laid out upon our demise. These are the things that are already identified, what it is. This is what he had before we got married. This is what I had before we got married. Those will go to our children. Those are very difficult conversations but they’re necessary. We did all that about a week or so before getting married or maybe afterward to make sure it was laid out and done. I’m in this situation because we don’t stay. I don’t need to make it messy later.

Waiting For A Year

Let’s talk about the first 6 to 12 months after you have a significant person in your life pass away. My point, if you take nothing else away from this episode, is to try not to make any big moves or decisions. Tina is going to talk about this in a minute. I’m going to be specific here. Don’t sell your house and move away in the first six months. Do not add your children to your house deed. Especially don’t do that if they’re minors and let me tell you why.

A minor cannot sign a deed to convey a house away. See what happens when we lose someone, especially suddenly. Death has come into our family. All those crazy images with he’s wearing the hood and he’s right here. You get very protective of your children rightfully so. You get scared like, “What can I do?” I can’t tell you how many people go to a lawyer or do it themselves, and I don’t know why any lawyer would do it, add a minor child to the house deed.

If your circumstances change, what if you get sick? What if you can’t work? Your income gets cut. You’re like, “I need to sell my house and move in with a relative. Wait, my minor child who I added to my deed, I can’t sell that house because my child can’t sign the deed. I need a court order to sell my house.” You’ve made your problems worse. You could choose legally to put your house into a trust if you’re going to stay in it for some time and name your children as the beneficiaries of the trust but I suggest you don’t make any complicated, big moves or legal decisions right away.

If you can stay put, stay put, get your counseling, reach out to your friends, and move through the process. Do not gift your assets. For some reason, when death comes to our house, it makes us very aware like, “I’m not getting out of here alive. I need to gift this house to someone.” Maybe there’s someone in your family who has played a protective role and is a very smart person. Let’s say you have Uncle Fritz and he’s a lawyer.

Paying Off Debts

“Uncle Fritz knows all. He has the best intentions of the family. I no longer have my spouse. I’m going to deed my house to Uncle Fritz. Why? Everything will work out. He will know what to do.” No, don’t do that. That has tax implications. Don’t gift assets away. Do not move out of state. Do not pay off the debts of the person who died.

I want to reiterate something Michelle said. Those are such extremely helpful things to consider. I want you to go back to where she said she had a friend who was a high-functioning individual. That was me. I could do multiple things at one time, chew bubble gum, walk, and all of that. Mark died and I was a shell of myself. Everybody’s grief journey is going to be different but the closer that person is to you, the more impactful it is.

If I thought to make major life decisions, I would have been doing it with my least capacity and my decisions would not have been crystal clear. That is why people are saying, and you hear often, I don’t recommend that you make decisions in the first year. Going back to the amygdala in the brain, it’s that trauma state that you’re in for that first year. Everybody’s different. It could be 6 to 9 to 12 or 18 months. You may find after that sixth to ninth month, you start going, “Okay.” It’s like when you’re in a plane and your ear pops and then you get out like, “I can hear better.”

You start seeing yourself come out of that fog. Somewhere between the sixth to ninth month or into eighteen months, your body is no longer in that trauma state. Your brain capacity is coming back. The idea of why you would want to wait a year or so is not because you’re all better and the grief is gone. It’s that the trauma part that your brain reacted to, and your capacity to make logical and concise thoughts, is starting to be regained.

There are some people who, unfortunately, in situations where their spouse dies, they no longer have the finances to maintain the mortgage. There may have not been life insurance. You’re in a situation in life where you may have to sell your property because you don’t want to lose it. You don’t have any other means but if you can stay put and not make major life decisions scientifically based on what your brain is doing, it will serve you better to be able to wait that time out.

 

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | Michelle Farley | Legal Talk

 

You may be going, “What did Tina do?” It was about eighteen months and then I relocated from Pennsylvania to Virginia. I still maintain the properties that we had there. I want to say until I was here about a year or so. I may have gotten here and decided it was a mistake. I wanted to go back to Pennsylvania. I didn’t disconnect from everything. I gave myself some time to confirm. I was pretty sure it was a good decision. My sister was here and I lived here before but it was so difficult to leave friends that I’ve had for years. It was the snow that made it difficult. If you’re thinking about it, look up the things that are happening in your body as it relates to grief and how it’s impacting your cognitive skills.

You made a very good point, Tina. Not everybody is in the same financial situation. Thank you for that. There certainly are people who have immediate financial pressure. This is why I’m a fan of life insurance. Get it while you’re healthy and alive to protect your spouse because it can change everything for your spouse. There are a lot of people struggling financially, people working 2 and 3 jobs, both of them, to pay their mortgage.

Get life insurance while you are healthy and alive to fully protect your spouse. Share on X

If you’re in that situation and your spouse passes, you need to speak to a lawyer all the more. I don’t care if it’s a financial aid lawyer. I still believe that there are plenty of good private lawyers who will give a significant free consultation. I do that every week. If you’re in Pennsylvania in that situation, you can certainly contact me. If you’re in another state, it’s possible. I could help you find someone.

Let’s go back to the point that I made about not paying off the debts. I do want to clarify that the minute the person dies, then we start talking about his or her estate and what’s in their estate. If you live in the marital home with that person and that home is deeded jointly in Pennsylvania, that becomes the property of the widow or the widower immediately. It’s free from claims of creditors. However, there are plenty of people who are in a second marriage.

Say it’s a woman. She married a man. He owned the house prior. They never changed the deed. Creditors can go after that house. In some states, if he passes, she’s forced to start a probate action right away because that asset was in his name only. She’s got to take steps to file a probate, which is the legal process of getting the assets of the person who passed away distributed to the appropriate parties. Part of that process is getting the debts paid off.

I’m not concerned about the decedent’s debt. I am concerned about the mortgage. If there’s a mortgage on the house and someone is living in the house, then yes. The mortgage is going to have to be handled. If the mortgage is in his name only, she’s probably going to have to refinance or she could contact that lender and ask to have the mortgage put in her name. They’ll ask to see proof of her income and things like that. If there’s a house with no mortgage, that’s a pure asset. She needs to get that house into her name.

What I don’t care about are the credit cards in his name. They can wait for payment. It takes at least 1 month or 2 for the lawyer to figure out what were his assets and debts. If you, as the widow, want to distribute the debts to yourself because that’s what the will says should happen, “She should get it all,” then you do eventually have to deal with his debts and the creditors who file claims. That varies by state but in general, that’s true.

You can’t start deeding properties to yourself or retitling the car to yourself if debts and claims are being made in the probate case. You will eventually have to deal with it but what you don’t have to do is answer the creditor’s phone calls. It’s one of the benefits of having a lawyer. Do not answer that. If the message they’re leaving in itself can be upsetting to you, pick up the phone and hang it back down. Press on your cell phone, accept it, and then hang it up. I don’t care if that’s rude. At that point, you’re preserving yourself.

I’ll give you an example, going back to my friends that I consulted. We talked about Bob who lost his wife suddenly at age 32. He had two boys. His wife was hiding cash as an emergency fund and they never found it. Another friend, Marcia, is disturbed by the phone calls. Right before Christmas in 2023, her only child, her 31-year-old daughter, died of a heart attack.

She died three weeks after having COVID and she had an autoimmune disease. They don’t know if that is connected. They don’t know if her heart was weakened by the autoimmune disease or maybe impacted by COVID. She had a couple of credit cards and a car loan. These creditors will not stop calling. They live in Virginia. I told my friend, “Do not take the calls.” I said to her husband, “I want you to intervene. When you hear that call coming in, pick it up and hang it down.” They still have a landline. I said, “If you’re going to get a lawyer,” which I recommend you do, “Pick it up and say, ‘This is my lawyer’s name and number. Stop calling the house.’”

The car loan is so not important when you lose your 31-year-old daughter. I understand that they’re doing the business of trying to collect their debt but they’re going to start calling quickly and it’s not pleasant. A couple of words about the probate process. I explain what that is. It’s the legal process of trying to get the assets collected, debts paid eventually, and then the assets distributed out. If you live in a state that applies inheritance tax, that happens simultaneously in that first year. The states that impose a tax upon death are Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Iowa.

A probate is a complicated process. There are thousands of dollars to be saved if the lawyer knows what they’re doing. There are deductions in the inheritance tax process and there are thousands of dollars to be lost. If you think that you’re being smart by doing it yourself, if you can afford a lawyer, and if your loved one has assets, you can afford a lawyer. If you don’t have the cash upfront to pay them, you can ask them to prepare a retainer letter detailing the payment terms and say, “I will pay you $1,000,” if you have $1,000, “Let’s then agree on how the balance is paid later once I receive the assets.” Usually, they will agree to that.

That’s nice. I didn’t know that. Thank you, Michelle.

Living Your Life Again

This section of my notes is called The Afterlife, not that kind of afterlife. What about when you begin to live your life again? What happens when you meet someone if you’re blessed and lucky enough to meet someone that you fall in love with again? Like Tina. My only advice is to go ahead and live your life. This goes back to no one’s getting out of here alive. Your spouse who passed would not want you to live the rest of your life lonely and in misery. If you have already had one incredible spouse who died before you and comes into your life another wonderful person, go ahead and take advantage of that and participate in the happiness.

After a loved one passes away, go ahead and continue living your life. You don’t have to live lonely and in misery. Share on X

Some of these are theoretical and from personal experience, dealing with a lot of people who are grieving. That goes back to having those difficult conversations in the relationship. Mark and I spoke about what we wanted for each other if we passed or who passed first. I didn’t have to have guilt about maybe I’m not honoring him. Maybe I don’t look like a good widow or a good wife if I got remarried. We had a conversation.

Getting remarried or recoupling may not be for everyone. Some people feel they’ve had one love of their life and that’s sufficient. Another thing also I have seen is that there are economic reasons why people will not get remarried. They may lose their spouse’s retirement and the person that they’re considering being with doesn’t have the economic base to maintain their quality of life. You could lose their Social Security and retirement. There’s a certain age that afterward you wouldn’t lose Social Security. Sometimes you’re a military. You may be a Gold Star widow. If you remarried, you would no longer receive that income.

Those conversations about remarrying after your spouse dies are beyond sometimes the idea of what this happiness looks like for me. It’s also about what is going to be my financial position. Some people may not have the mental capacity to think about, “I want to subject myself to another spouse dying. I know that was something I had to wrestle with.” At the end of it, I came to the conclusion that I had more love to receive and more love to give. That’s why it was a good decision that worked for me.

I worked outside of the home. I had my financial position that wasn’t leveraged on something that I was relying on that Mark had done a retirement. That put me in a different place. I’m not in a retirement age. I wasn’t drawing anybody’s Social Security but it is a holistic conversation. I recommend that you speak with your financial advisor, a trusted family or friend member who is a confidant, or your lawyer. Lay out all those things as they relate to if you were to get remarried and how that would impact your life.

You said what I was going to say, which is if you find the second love of your life, maybe there are reasons for you to live together. Maybe there are reasons for you to live near each other and be blissful boyfriend and girlfriend but you won’t know that until you slow down and collect data that you’re going to research any important decision, your trusted friend, financial person, tax person, lawyer, and maybe pastor.

I don’t know how many people you would include in that decision but excellent point, Tina. Thank you. As a lawyer, I have to throw out this piece of advice. If you’re going to get married a second time around, and you have your assets or you inherited assets from your spouse, you want to talk to your lawyer about a prenuptial agreement. I would be remiss if I didn’t say it.

That is exactly what we did because we’re not twelve. Mark, when we got married, I purchased a Dodge Colt. We had a $500 rebate and that was the honeymoon money. I’m in a different position in life. If you’re dating someone, and you bring up the idea of the prenup that Michelle mentioned, and they reel back, I consider that a red flag, something that you cannot understand. You’re like, “Yes, I love you. We’re going to get remarried.”

This is not a prenup because I think the marriage isn’t going to last. This is a prenup that you put in place upon one of your demises that your assets are lined out to who is going to receive them, which may be your children or family members that have nothing to do with the marriage. That is so critical. I left my primary life insurance to my children and nieces. We have different life insurance that at this point would be to cover the service and some very minor things.

When Mark and I got married, we were trying to set each other up to be able to maintain a quality of life after one of us passed. At this age, that’s not something that my spouse and I are looking to do but we’re trying to make sure upon our demise, it doesn’t create a burden for the other person and they can continue to live their life. In the prenup, it was never something I would have ever thought or considered with Mark. It wasn’t necessary but in this second round of life and where I’m at, it’s necessary.

A lot of us, the first time we got married, we didn’t have anything so prenup was silly but then if you’ve lost your spouse and you’re middle-aged, that’s a different scenario. It’s a very personal thing but I have to throw it out there. I am a lawyer. Many people in my close circle have lost someone. This opportunity got me thinking about that and I did reach out and discuss it with each one of them and got their permission to mention it to you.

My neighbor and new friend Maura lost her husband to MS after a lengthy illness battle at age 45. They had adopted two young children. She said that having two young children at the time she became a widow helped her because that was what forced her. When she heard the first child cry each morning, she threw off the blankets, put her feet on the floor, put her robe on, and saw what they needed. The day starts. That was this experience. Maura and my friend Bob both had young children. It’s more difficult but it also helps and makes it easier because you have a reason to get up and keep going.

People have to find their reason why. I do understand that every marriage is not a good marriage. Some people were in domestic violence. Some people were in a very abusive relationship. When their spouse died, it was unfortunately relieved that they did not have to endure that hardship but people in different situations did everything with their spouse.

I remember it being difficult to say Tina without saying Tina and Mark because everything was together and struggling because Catherine and Alexander were adults and they were out of the house. I was left there by myself in this home. I struggled to try to find my why, purpose, and motivation. Was I able to grieve openly throughout the house all by myself? Yes, but having those small children, I can see how that creates such a motivation and a reason for why. It helps you continue to live because it pulls you into life again.

My friend and neighbor Mike, on the other hand, lost his only son to suicide during his son’s first year of college. He does have two daughters. He has a second marriage and stepchildren. He has four daughters but lost his only son to suicide. He was in a financial situation where he was able to hire my services immediately. His advice was to get a lawyer that you trust immediately and not try to do anything legal in the first 6 to 12 months.

He’s a cardiologist so he was in a financial situation that he could do that. He did one thing that was a legal event and he did it right away within the first two weeks. He established a significant scholarship at his son’s college to benefit other students. I’m advised that every year, a couple of students benefit from that scholarship fund which is invested in earning money. He receives notes from the students talking about their progress and how they appreciate the assistance.

Scholarship Fund

Not everybody can do that but if you can’t establish a significant scholarship fund, maybe you can do a $1,000 scholarship at the community college. It can be something similar but on a much smaller scale, which still impacts people. You certainly can plant a tree in your loved one’s remembrance, donate a tree to a park, and do something that will carry on. This concludes what I wanted to talk about unless you have questions that you think would benefit the readers. I appreciate the opportunity you’ve provided me with to address your readers. We miss you in Pennsylvania.

She’s going to make me cry again. That was beautiful, Michelle. I will have this shameless plug that you can donate directly to us. Our goal by 2025 is to create a scholarship fund. That scholarship fund is because when someone loses a spouse, their life is often changed. You talked about how difficult people are dealing with financial challenges that they may have to obtain an upgrade in their job, need re-educating, and not be able to afford for their children to go to school anymore because of the missing of that spouse’s income.

In the donations that we make, our goal is to be able to help people with those financial burdens, give a scholarship for someone going back to school or for their children, or help during the holidays when finances are crunched and people are trying to buy gifts for their children. That is something that we do. You can go to Widowhood-RealTalkWithTina.org and make donations there.

Painting

You can also text us directly or email me. Those things are available. You covered a lot of great information. We stuck to the things in Pennsylvania and people need to go to their local state and their lawyer to get the details worked out. I do want to ask about the significance of the picture in the back that you have over there. What is that about the painting?

I met a woman younger than me. She started as a client and is residing in one of my rental properties. She has a daughter who’s a teenager and her daughter painted this picture. They were in the process of moving. She was discarding it and thinking that she was going to put it at the end of the driveway for trash. I thought it was beautiful. It’s a young woman sitting with her dog at a sunset. I thought it was outstanding.

I asked her if I could have it. She said, “Absolutely. I was going to get rid of it and throw it away.” I started painting during COVID and painting is something that I would suggest anybody can go and get online lessons like I did. Relax, unwind, use it as an alternative to therapy, and play with color. I never had any creative streak but now I’m doing that. I have my small paintings up there above my diploma, a little sunset piece. I’m playing with color a little bit.

I would have thought that someone painted that specifically for you since you love dogs. I could see that a visual of you and your dog.

Our bird dog. Yes, we do love dogs. In your time of need, rely on your pets and snuggle with your pets. They love you unconditionally. If anybody thinks I can help with any questions, they can reach out to me. FarleyLaw01@Outlook.com is the best way to reach me. I have a record and I can search in my inbox. I will respond. If you want me to help find an appropriate lawyer in your jurisdiction, I’ll do that as well.

Reason Of Joy & Going Back In Time

Thank you. I wanted to clarify. You can text a donation to us by texting Hopeful Hearts to 53555. It’ll come right up. You can donate directly to our organization. I have two questions for you, Michelle. What gives you joy?

My family gives me joy. My husband and two kids are precious to me. Also, my dog and good friends over the years like you, Tina.

It wasn’t a plug. Thank you. The second question that I ask people is, if you could pick any period in your life, what would you pick and tell Michelle?

I would say in the years when the kids were young and they were doing their basketball. The schedules were frantic with two kids doing two different basketball schedules, me with a litigation schedule, and my husband with a sales management schedule. I would tell myself, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Nobody cares if laundry’s left undone or for dinner one night, you had fast food instead of a home-cooked meal. I would say, “You can’t get it all done. Stop trying.”

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Nobody cares if the laundry is left undone or if you had fast food one night. Share on X

Closing Words

Thank you for being here. I will let you close out this conversation and wrap it up.

I appreciate the opportunity. I hope that if your readers have already lost someone, they found some helpful information here and if they haven’t lost someone and they’re interested in this topic, that they have found some information about planning and moving forward in their life in a productive way and making some plans for that eventual thing that’s going to happen to us all.

Thank you.

Thank you, Tina.

Yes, the lawyer is my long-time friend. I have not spoken to Michelle in so long that I’m grateful that we had the opportunity to catch up and at the same time, provide you with very valuable information. I am sorry for the person that you have lost that has driven you to this conversation but I am glad to be part of your community and you’re part of the hood. Please feel free to email me topics at WidowhoodRealTalk@Gmail.com. Let me know what you want to be covered. If you want to be able to share your journey here, please let me know. I’ll talk to you later. Bye.

 

Important Links

 

About Michelle Farley

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | Michelle Farley | Legal TalkMichelle F. Farley, Esq. Biography

Attorney Farley is a 1988 graduate of University of Wisconsin where she majored in Journalism and rowed varsity crew after competing on the US Jr. National Rowing team. After college, she attended NYU School of Law and earned her J.D. degree. She then passed the Bar Examination in Maryland and served as a Law Clerk for US District Court Judge Marvin Garbis in Baltimore, MD. Following that, she joined a DC law firm with more than a thousand lawyers and practiced in their DC and Maryland offices for six years. After marrying she was admitted to the PA Bar and moved to Pennsylvania where she and her Husband settled in the Pocono Mountains to raise their two children.

From 1999 – 2012 Attorney Farley she practiced in her own solo law office. During that time, she did municipal law, serving as the Township solicitor for the town where she resided. She also represented local home-owner associations. Attorney Farley also developed a real estate practice that included issuing title insurance for closings. She began practicing family law around 2003 and grew that practice to include divorce, custody, support, adoption, and protection from abuse. Around 2004 she developed both estate planning practice preparing Last Will & Testament, living wills, powers of attorney and health – care documents. Also during this time, Atty. Farley developed a probate practice that included probate litigation (cases involving disputes amongst heirs or creditors). From 2012 to 2023 she was with the law firm of Fisher & Fisher but is now back on her own since summer 2023 as Farley Law, LLC, where she focuses on estate planning and uncontested and mediated divorce and custody, now in semi-retirement.

Atty. Farley has served as a mock -trial judge for many years and is the current Chair of the Diversity Committee of her Local Bar Association. In 2023 she was recognized by the local Bar Association for her pro bono work and work assisting those of modest means.

She resides in Pocono Mountains (Monroe County, PA), and she can be reached at farleylaw01@outlook.com or www.farleylawllc.com

Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach.

I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.

Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide