In years gone by, I can recall that the majority of my clients were the elderly looking for help downsizing. Somewhere around 2003, that all changed and the calls coming into my office were coming from children looking for help handling their parents’ estates after they passed away or help cleaning out their estates.
Today, things have shifted once again. While I still work with the elderly occasionally, and certainly work with the boomer children who are the majority of my business, I see an ever-increasing (and hair-raising) trend of hearing from younger children whose parents have died unexpectedly in their 50s and 60s.
We all seem to be programmed that infirmity and death only occur in old age. Sadly, this is not the case. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on our part, or not wanting to think about it at all. But in my work, I am seeing more and more of my deceased clients are eerily close to my own age, and I never thought of myself as being old. I find myself thinking about my clients, and what they are going through, because most of their parents don’t take the time to plan ahead, especially when they are still relatively young. This throws the grieving children into more of a tail-spin because they may not have had “The Talk.”
Many children do not know what their parents’ final wishes are, nor how the estate is to be divided. They don’t even know if the parents have a Will or Trust. These are HUGE issues that weigh heavily on those left behind.
Estate Lady Tips:
- Don’t do that to your children or beneficiaries. You are mortal and a plan has to be shared with loved ones. While you may not want to discuss this, you will feel much better after you do, and your children will thank you for it. They will be especially grateful when the time comes, realizing the care you took ahead of time to make their lives easier. Make an appointment to have a Will/Trust drawn up this week.
- Don’t die in debt. This is a horrid situation. Suffice it to say you create a nightmare for those dealing with your estate.
- Ask for an addendum to your Will so you can assign who gets what. Better yet, give it away while you are still living so there is less to fight about after you are gone.
- Start clearing out your home now, even if you are young. Don’t let it accumulate or it will snowball on you. gain control of the house (and the piles of stuff we all have) and start clearing out. Once a month, drop off items to a charity, or arrange for them to come to the house for a pick up. Have yard sales for a little extra spending money. If you haven’t seen it or used it in a year, let it go.
- Talk to your spouse and children about what you want. Both of my parents died without much warning. It’s a good thing they told us what they wanted and had the legal documents to back up their wishes. When the time came (and it did when I least expected it), I knew exactly what to do. I can still hear mom telling me, “Dad and I don’t want you to go through any more than you have to, because you will be going through enough when the time comes. We want to make this as easy as possible on you, and we have made these decisions ahead of time to remove additional stress placed on you.” This was music to my ears, not fully understanding the massive impact until I had to make a life and death decision for one of them. I still can’t believe how much love they had for us.
These are not easy things to do. Doing them sooner, rather than later, will change the way you think about these issues and make it much easier for you and your family in the future. Take it from one who sees this trouble everyday.
Resources from the Estate Lady:
- To really learn how to clean out an estate, as a hobby or business, I have created a Professional Estate Clean Out course:
- My practical, solutions-based, no-nonsense guide for equitable distribution:
© 2013 Julie Hall
Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising.
She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation.