Simple Things

At the end of a very long and taxing week, I felt like I would keel over from the fatigue of cleaning out a challenging estate several floors up in an affluent high-rise community.  There were many rules: you can’t use the elevator when …, you can’t come before this time, you can’t do any moving on weekends, you can only park here, etc.  The week just wore me out.  As luck would have it, there just happened to be a full moon.  One day when I came home dragging so badly, I spotted a buzzard sitting on the roof peak of my house looking down at me.  I just looked up at him and said, “I may look dead to you, but I’m still alive and kicking, buddy!”

Lately, everything seems to be so complicated.

Yesterday, a friend of mine came over for a visit and spotted a photo of my late father sipping on his favorite strawberry shake from Steak and Shake.  It was an impromptu photo I snapped because Dad looked so cute, like a little boy enjoying the heck out of a $3 shake, even though he was 82 years old.

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My friend commented, “This photo is the epitome of your dad!  This is how he should be remembered.”  That got me thinking about the simple things that we all overlook, especially when life gets complicated.

The estates I handle are seldom straightforward and easy.  Each has its’ own unique set of potential problems and logistics to solve, to make the job easier for everyone involved.  The “human” aspect of the work can often cause the flow to be interrupted.  Some clients are terrific and laid back; others have a lot going on that is hard to balance.  But, we love what we do and we do it well.

You know those challenging days that never seem to end.  You come home to a ton of phone calls, the teenager has a problem, your pet has a vet appointment, the lawn needs mowing, bills need paying … you have the feeling of “Calgon, take me away!”  Lately, I’m having many Calgon moments.

On my way home yesterday, ready to collapse on the sofa, I saw a young boy trying to walk his puppy on a leash.  It looked like the first time for both of them.  The puppy did not understand how the leash worked and the little boy could not understand why the puppy didn’t get it.  It was very comical to watch as the little boy talked to his puppy.  “Why can’t you just walk straight like other dogs?”  He said it with the tone of an innocent child, more inquisitive than angry.  All the puppy knew how to do was romp and lick him, which made the boy laugh.  They attempted their walk one more time with giggles and a wagging tail.

I realized that I actually had a big smile on my face, thinking this little snippet of a boy’s life was very cute, just like my father sipping on the strawberry shake.

Ahhh, the simple things.

What a big impact they make, if we just let them!

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

 

Published in: on October 18, 2014 at 11:15 am  Comments (2)  
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Our Addiction to Acquisition

The world seems to be much smaller than it used to be; the same is true of our living space.  I think we humans have a problem with buying and collecting too much.  Two questions baffle me, even after all these years of handling estates:

Why do we collect so much stuff?

What possesses us to continually buy things we don’t need, don’t use, and eventually become a monkey on our backs or a burden to loved ones?

In order to understand, we must go back into our long-ago and far-away to understand our ancient ancestors.  My very unscientific and unproven theory is that, as far back as caveman days, we were hardwired to hunt and gather.  Fast forward to the 21st century.  We don’t have to hunt any longer and it requires no effort or discipline to acquire things.  We’ve become extremely proficient at gathering too.

People have truly become anchored by spending and acquiring stuff.  For some, they become emotionally paralyzed in trying to let go of stuff.  Stuff weighs people down, as I see so often in my work.

Now we have so much stuff, many people are about out of money or in great debt.  When they sell some of what they acquired, they get upset when they can only regain a fraction of what they paid.  As we let go of some stuff (that on some level we equate with success), we go through a very real fear that we won’t be able to replace it one day.  What was once a comfort is now headed out the door.

To some people, acquiring things is a hobby.  For others, it is an obsession.  Yet our lifestyles are so different today; many are downsizing because they don’t want their possessions holding them back.

Here’s a history lesson on the acquisition of and attitude towards stuff:

We know the Depression Era folks rarely thew anything away.  This behavior is ingrained in them to never go without again, having survived such challenging times.  This generation has a tendency to go overboard on “stocking up,” a fear based response.  This is also a psychological decision which brings comfort, since everything is close if they need it.  As a sign of success, they are proud of their possessions, because during the Depression, they did without them.

This may explain why they keep leather straps, old shoelaces, myriad Cool Whip containers, mayonnaise jars, aluminum pie tins, pantyhose, pencil nibs, and enough rubber bands to stretch around the neighborhood.  They also collect canned foods because “you never know when you are going to need them.”

The older Boomers are so traditional and as loyal as their parents; they generally have a difficult time letting go of stuff.  They may feel a profound sadness in letting go of previous generations’ things, even as they realize the younger generation no longer wants these things.  They are in the middle of making tough decisions to keep or sell these items.

This generation is responsible for keeping storage companies in business.  But they don’t realize the items in storage lack the value of what they are paying for the storage costs.  They live with high hopes that their children will change their minds and keep these things, and even higher hopes that their grandchildren will want them.  If I was a betting woman, I would say, “NO, they will not change their minds.”

The younger boomers are still somewhat traditional, but generally do not feel the pressure to hold on to these things.  This generation can let go much easier.

Enter the young generations X and Y.  I can’t say much that would surprise you.  They have little sentimentality.  They seem to not have a desire for things of any kind, except what you can buy in IKEA.  This generation would never understand the concept of keeping furniture for decades, or covering every table surface with trinkets.  Theirs is a much simpler world.

They acquire virtually.

We acquire physically.

Do you see the huge division of thoughts, beliefs, and emotions causing problems in the market?  We have too much supply and not enough demand from the younger generations.

What do you think will become of our antiques and collectibles with the passage of time?

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Life is Hard; Massive Trend to Simplify

In the last 6 months, I have had about 15 clients preparing to leave the U.S.  Several are headed to Costa Rica, one to Belize, and the others mostly Belgium and Switzerland.  A couple of others are selling off all their worldly possessions and traveling the country, having sold their businesses and converted their belongings to cash.

In my practice, I am seeing a huge and fast occurring trend to simplify lives and, for lack of a better phrase, “get out of Dodge.”  It is interesting to sit back and watch this occur.  One would think the clients I am referring to are all affluent, but this is not the case.  Some just want a different life, a simpler life with less rushing about.  They are tired of being masters to large homes, caring for property, and owning more stuff than they can use.

They are even growing tired of the items they inherited, making peace and letting them go too.  From what I can tell, these heirlooms have become monkeys on their backs and they are doing something about it.

We have already seen this mindset in the younger generations X and Y.  The millennials have a thought-process all their own; it seems they came into this world not wanting stuff at all.  They prefer cash, not stuff.

The majority of my clients divesting themselves of nearly everything are 50+ years and see the writing on the wall.  These decisions usually come after their last parent has passed away, and the children are either grown or on their own.  They themselves are either retired or been let go of their jobs early, and having trouble finding a new one.

It might seem impulsive to many of you who may be aghast at the thought of selling your worldly possessions.  But this group of people, which is growing rapidly (based on the phone calls I receive each day), knows

  • they can’t take it with them,
  • the market is not doing us any favors, and
  • these things will be a burden to someone else someday.

I have followed up with many of these people, and here’s the kicker … They don’t regret a thing!  They are so happy they let go of the very things that anchored them; now they are free to enjoy their lives and do what they really want to do.

Funny thing, “stuff.”

So many of us equate our success to the acquisition of stuff.  Yet, in the end, it really doesn’t mean much because it cannot come with you.

Sure, we have our few favorite pieces we could never live without.  We humans are creatures of habit.  We only use 20% of what we own.  Think about it!  We wear our favorite clothes, favorite shoes and purses, and the rest just sits there.  When is the last time you really enjoyed all of the items you brought back from mom’s house after she passed?  Are they just sitting there on a shelf, kept but not truly cherished?

I am heeding my own advice and letting go of many things I spent 20+ years collecting.  My husband is wondering why I am suddenly purging.  It’s because we have too much, and we no longer want or need it.  I’d rather have the cash, more space, and more time to enjoy myself!

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on October 3, 2014 at 9:20 am  Comments (3)  
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What Fair Market Value is NOT

As an appraiser, I have to understand the definition of Fair Market Value (FMV). As confusing as FMV can sometimes be for the professional, I can imagine how convoluted it must be for the lay person.

Under the United States Treasury regulation 1.170-1(c), Fair Market Value is defined as:

The price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under the compulsion to buy or compulsion to sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.

That definition simplified everything, didn’t it? I think not.

For someone who does not understand that definition and all that it implies, it can be left up to their own imaginations to fill in the blanks and specifics, which can be a very bad thing. The person who does not understand will conjure up crazy, inflated “values” that are not values at all; they are merely asking prices they found online. This is NOT Fair Market Value.

If you are at an estate sale and you and the seller exchange $20 for an item, and neither of you are being forced into this exchange, that $20 is the FMV for that day and moment. If both you and the seller have all the basic facts, the item is a flat screen TV that works and you agree on a price, and you are not being forced to buy or sell, it was a mutually agreeable transaction. This is Fair Market Value.

Let’s talk about other things that are NOT Fair Market Value:

  • It is not what you paid for an item (most people pay high retail and not FMV).
  • It is not wishful thinking. True values are arrived at with careful research and methodology.
  • It is not family lore. We know the stories of how “valuable” mom always said an item was, but that is not fair market value. Many of our older moms may not understand how very different things are today, or why younger women have little interest in their prized possessions.
  • It is not outdated appraisal values that were probably written for insurance purposes or in a much healthier market.
  • It is not what you think it should be, nor the amount of money needed to pay bills.
  • It is not the asking price you see on a similar item on the internet or Ebay. Asking prices are just asking prices. We’re interested in what it actually SOLD FOR.
  • It is not based on sentimentality (how much you, or a loved one, cherished it).
  • It is not about how old it is or how long you’ve had it.  “Old” doesn’t necessarily mean it has value.

Everybody seems to have their own idea of fair market value, but very few I hear about are actually “fair.” At the end of the day, the market is what it is. All we can do is our very best to educate our clients, even if they don’t want to hear what we have to say.

Bottom line: An item is worth what someone will give you for it. Always enlist the help of a professional to guide you through, when you don’t have the answers.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Sitting here with my morning coffee, I can hardly see the computer screen through my tears.  I have gone from soft, silent crying to full force, hurting-my-gut weeping.  My beloved “Tommy” is by my side and he is dying; I know you understand when I say it is killing a part of me too.

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My head turns to the right to look outside my breakfast room windows and see the beautiful woods and birds at the feeders.  The hummingbirds are active too, defending their feeding territories, preparing for their long journey before winter arrives.  My head turns to the left and I see my beautiful cat of 12 years, my sweet buddy, who has heart failure and is declining rapidly.  It happened so fast.  Right now, he is a lump in the softest pile of blankets I could find.

I am very good at care-giving, making people and pets comfortable, but I cannot fix this.  I cannot fix his heart or bring his vitality back, neither his playfulness or fun spirit.  Right now it feels like he has a foot in both worlds and we are forced to say goodbye, either through God’s will or ours, very soon.  I’m afraid I’m not very good at saying goodbyes.  Lately, it seems I am saying goodbye far more than I’m saying hello.

One might wonder how a little cat could bring a strong woman to her knees emotionally.  At the time Tommy came into our lives, I was a single mom and working very hard.  One day I was outside gardening and I heard the tiniest cry coming from the woods.  It wasn’t a bird, so I had to go investigate.  What if some little creature was in trouble?

Finally, I saw him among the leaves and twigs; a tiny little fur ball no bigger than my palm and not old enough to be weaned.  I watched for a long time to see if mom would appear, but something must have happened to the mother or she abandoned her kittens.  Tommy had crawled through a large patch of woods where I found him, hungry and scared.  Certain death would have been his fate with birds of prey and other critters around here.  The decision had already been made.  With one swoop of my arm, I scooped him up and put him on my chest; when he started purring, he owned my heart.

From that moment to this, he has proven himself to be the coolest cat in the world.  He comes when you call him, plays with you, nuzzles you, and will do anything for a scratch under the chin.  Very loving, very sweet-natured.  Now, he is at the end of his life, and I discovered last night that his diagnosis is exactly what my mom died from.  I was helpless then and I am helpless now.  The drugs help with breathing, but there is no quality of life.  I know what must be done but it is ripping me apart.  The vet said he is not yet in any discomfort and I don’t want that to happen.

Two days ago, Tommy came into the kitchen where I was checking emails on my laptop.  In a manner very uncharacteristic of him, he stood up on his hind legs, reached his paw as high as that paw could go, and tapped me on the chest.  I looked down into those bright green eyes; it was as if he was trying to tell me something.  Something I didn’t want to hear.

Just this minute, I let out a whimper as I wrote that last line and blew my nose.  Tommy got up from his pile of blankets and is sitting right next to me.  He just reached up and tapped me again with the same paw, wanting to be picked up.  He’s trying to say he loves me; he has succeeded.  I whispered “I love you too, buddy” in his ear.  He wanted me to swoop him up in my arms once again and put him on my chest, just like I did in the woods so many years ago when he was lost.

You just never know how or when paths may cross to change your life forever.

I must end this blog now, because this purring embrace with him is too precious.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on September 19, 2014 at 9:30 am  Comments (8)  
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The Value of Kindness in a Value-Less Estate

The old song “Break It to Me Gently” reminds us that any time bad news is coming, we’d rather hear it gently and compassionately than point-blank and hurtful. Many times in life we will be the deliverer of, and recipient of, less than stellar news. How we deliver it, and how we receive it, is a testament to our personal and professional character.

When we are called into an estate, we walk in completely objective, prepared to tell our clients the truth of what we see. The trouble is that sometimes our clients do not want to hear what we have to say. They may feel, because they paid so much for an item, it should have increased in value. They may feel that if they have an antique, it must be worth a fortune.

We hear the stories of “mom always said this was worth a fortune.” The family folklore gets juicier with the passage of time; therefore the items must be super valuable. How difficult to be the bearer of bad news, but we must remind our clients politely not to shoot the messenger.

Sometimes, hopefully not too often, we hear stories of estate professionals who are simply too direct or gruff with elderly clients. These professionals have lost their sensitivity somewhere along the way. Some might insult the client accidentally or intentionally. Some slam down the values of their items. Some say “no one would ever want this stuff” or “you don’t have anything good enough for me to sell.” What these professionals have forgotten is the art of being tactful and kind.

It is professional and right to be honest and upfront. It is good to guide the client to a place where they have some solutions, even if you yourself cannot help them.

It is the “best of the best” in this industry that can do all of these things with a kind face and a gentle heart.

There are ways to lower the boom without lowering the spirit. Certainly there are those who feel being blunt is the way to go. These believe that our clients need a firm voice and words to make them understand their possessions are not going to be worth much, since we know their expectations are too high. After all, some people are harder to convince than others; you would be correct in that thinking.

But as with all things in life, there is a balance that we professionals must once again recapture, which many of us have forgotten because we are all pressed for time and we multitask at every turn. We’re tired and always in search of that perfect estate. Sometimes you get it. Sometimes you don’t.

Food for thought: How would each of us like to be spoken to if we were faced with selling our own possessions or the possessions of a parent? What if the items a professional slammed belonged to our moms?

It is far easier to see our side of things because we do this every day. It is far more difficult to take a moment and step outside of ourselves, to see how it feels on the flip side. This one act will separate you from the mediocre and make you among the elite in this industry.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Beware of Snowballing Family Lore

I would be a rich woman if I had a dollar for every time I heard a family member tell the story of an heirloom in which the story gets bigger and better with every telling.  It’s like the old parable, “The fish that got away was THIS big …” and every time the story is told the fish miraculously gets bigger.

As estate professionals, we have the same challenge when discussing and valuating family heirlooms and other treasured items.  I visit clients in their homes and enjoy each of them as I listen to their stories.  However, I know what the values really are, regardless of the verbal family stories.

The hard part for me, and for the client, is providing proof that the following really happened:

  • “Did you know Abraham Lincoln sat in that chair?”
  • This belt buckle once belonged to Robert E. Lee.”
  • Our grandmother told us Teddy Roosevelt took a picture with daddy, but we don’t know where that picture is.”

We know what these items are worth on a monetary level, but you can’t place a value on sentimentality.  Sentimentality is priceless.  Sentimental items are what we mostly find.

Could some of these family stories actually be true?  Who’s to say.  Perhaps they are.  But without provenance, or history of the piece, it leaves a question mark and it’s impossible to valuate.  The needed proof would be, for example, a photo of Abraham Lincoln really sitting in that chair with the original upholstery, or a document that proves it was at a historic event or with a person of distinction.  Without proof, we can only appraise what we see based on the characteristics or its aesthetic value.  It then becomes just an “old chair.”

I look back into my experiences with all kinds of families and wonder why most people seem to exaggerate about possessions.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • It’s their version of the truth as they see it.
  • To make the item more “valuable”
  • To accentuate the positive.
  • To make the mundane more exciting
  • To give their heirs a legacy they believe is valuable

Maybe Abraham Lincoln did sit in that chair.  Or maybe he sat in one just like it, and that’s how the story got started.  Someone heard what they wanted to hear and generations of tongues did the rest.  It happens in every family.  Remember too, that people hear what they want to hear.

The bottom line is that we professionals don’t want our clients to be disappointed when they go sell these items and the prices brought don’t match the stories behind the pieces.  Very often, this is the case.  Setting your expectations in neutral before the estate process gets started means we all are one step ahead.

Research professionals before you hire them, but then listen to them with an open mind.  We know the items in the majority of our estates, and if we don’t, we can research them.  Have faith that we handle these possessions every day and can advise you correctly and honestly.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Where, O Where, Have All the Experts Gone?

Experts in antique books, stamps, silversmith, woven rugs, Persian rugs, clocks, estate jewelry, advertising, coins, etc. are getting harder to find for several reasons:

  1. They have died.
  2. They are up in years and no longer practice.
  3. They have gone out of business due to lack of interest and sales.
  4. The younger generations aren’t interested in learning the craft of their elders.

Now we are left with a shortage of rich-with-experience “old-timers” in these specialty areas.

  • How will we be able to identify historic items and other pieces of significance after they are gone?
  • How will we ever know the stories behind such items?
  • Without these elders and their expertise, what will we have to teach our children and grandchildren?

This wealth of information has fallen on the deaf ears of the younger generations; now they have no trade to fall back on in life.  It’s really sad, but it’s their decision to make.

I was in Arizona a couple of years back and talked with some of the Native Americans.  They instantly saw how I lit up holding their silver jewelry, wondering how they achieved a certain shape, scroll, or color.  This conversation led to another, when I asked the elder silversmith if he had taught his son and grandson his wonderful skills.

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“Neither wanted to learn,” he said.  “Now they have their fancy phones and games, but they have no way to make a living.  They don’t know much.”

Spotting a weaver, I went over and talked with her as well.  You’d be amazed how well a huge smile opens doors.  Hers was the same story.  All of these middle-aged and older people learned their skills from their parents and grandparents, but very few of their children were interested.

As someone who loves the estate industry, you could say that I study the possessions of those already passed.  I wonder how appraisers in the future will be able to do their job, as experts die off.

This Estate Lady is collecting unusual books about all of the topics I mentioned at the top.  At the rate everything is being read online, the real books containing rare information will be considered trash one day.  I can see some of these books being dumped.

I know what is inside those books is more valuable than the things I appraise.  They contain knowledge, and you can’t put a price on that!

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on September 4, 2014 at 9:45 am  Comments (3)  
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Seven Attorneys for Seven Siblings

Consulting on an unusual estate recently, I was informed there were 7 beneficiaries, 4 of which were also co-executors.  Can you imagine that many co-executors?  What a nightmare!  This estate also had personal property, which the family felt to be very valuable, but it wasn’t.  There was a bunch of land to be divided, or sold and divided among the children.

Naturally, when you have that many cooks in the kitchen, everyone has different thoughts and opinions.  This is why co-executors is not necessarily a good choice.  In my opinion, estate settlement is much harder when you hand decisions to people who can’t come to a conclusion and end up fighting, or potentially going broke doing so.  Some wanted the land intact; others wanted it subdivided.  You can see where this story is going and it isn’t good.

The siblings had indeed reached an impasse.  One long distance heir, who had little to do with mom while she was alive, was the first to get an attorney involved, then everyone else followed suit.  It just gets messier from there.

I have been doing this for a very long time; I hope you don’t think I’m crazy when I share with you that people and their behaviors are getting worse.  Their behavior is often out of control, along with other emotions, sometimes even getting physical.  It makes me wonder.

What on earth could be so grand that it’s worth destroying themselves, as well as other relatives and relationships?  Don’t these people know they are going to have to carry the burden of their decisions for the remainder of their lives?

Don’t get me wrong.

I’d love to have a slice of land or the proceeds from it.

Who wouldn’t?

But not at this cost.

It just isn’t worth it!

The attorneys will do their jobs well, and whatever inheritance there is will dwindle with legal fees.

Interesting observation:  While the inheritance is decreasing, the emotions and angst will only increase and be prolonged, sometimes for the rest of the lifetime, long after the estate has been settled.

Is there anyone to blame in this scenario?  Fingers can be pointed all day long.  In the end, it comes down to the original decision maker who did not specify what should happen to the property and named so many co-executors.  Big mistake which caused even more strife for those left behind.

I ask you plainly … Is it really worth it?

I couldn’t possibly make this stuff up!

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

The Ring

Go ahead and get your tissue box now; I have mine on my lap as I write this.  Let me tell you a beautiful story.

An 80-year-old mother knew her health was failing, but she didn’t tell her children how bad it was really getting.  Her 82-year-old husband was afflicted with dementia; the disease was just starting to rear its ugly head and become too much for her to handle, seeing her beloved husband of 58 years slip away.

This mom and dad lived far away from their two children and grandchildren by choice.  All of their dearest friends were in Florida, and that is where they wanted to spend their golden years together.  The only problem was as the years passed, they watched all their friends get sick and pass away one by one, visiting each of them in the nursing homes and hospitals, saying their goodbyes.

Their family loved each other dearly and always remained close in heart through daily phone calls and emails, reminiscing and sending each other “remember whens.”  But it was time to call in help and the children intervened, trying to get them closer geographically.  Finally, mom agreed.  When the middle-aged daughter went for a visit to discuss options and make decisions, the mom again showed the daughter where all their trust and other legal papers were located, to make sure the kids knew where everything could be found.  How heartbreaking for the daughter to see her parents decline and become fragile, and equally hard for the mom to discuss her final wishes and personal thoughts with the daughter.

Bury me in this dress, call these people when I die, don’t spend a lot on flowers, etc…

It was a difficult day for mother and daughter; the deed was done and the day dragged long.

The mom got up and went into her bedroom and called the daughter in after her.  She presented her daughter with a ring, placing it in her hand and clasping her frail, weathered hand around her daughter’s, she spoke from her failing heart:

It’s yours now.  It’s time for you to keep this.  I remember when you were a little girl, no more than 5 or 6, you would sneak into our bedroom, open my jewelry box, and try this ring on when you thought no one was watching.  You would put it on your index finger, and it was so big for your tiny finger.  I was there watching.  Mothers always watch and know what’s going on with their children.  You loved this bauble then, and I hope you will remember this moment after I’m gone, because I want you to have this.  It isn’t worth much, but I always cherish the memory of how you would tiptoe into our room just to try it on, careful to put it back where you found it.  Wear it in good health, and may God bless you always for who you are, for the woman you have become, and for what you mean to me.  I love you very much and I’m so proud of you.

The daughter was speechless and choked up all at once, trying very hard to be brave, but it didn’t work.  She collapsed in front of her mother, knowing the message she was giving her: that she was dying and she had made peace with it.

Julie ring

This story is about my mother, Anne, who died not long after that day, and I was the little girl who adored the big, purple, shiny ring.  I will always cherish the ring because of the story behind it, because mom gave it to me in person, and because of the special words that went with it.  Mostly, it made me realize I carry her courage inside me; I hope one day I can pass that to my daughter (the ring and the courage).

I wear this ring any time I wear purple.  Each time I slip it on my finger, I think of mom handing it to me and how it fits perfectly on my finger now.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

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