“Skeletons,” Secrets Cause Strife

From cleaning out estates all these years, I have learned that many people have “skeletons” that need to be dealt with prior to their passing.

In the land of the forgotten (attics, boxes in the back of the closet, locked trunks, hidden in barns or sheds, etc), we find things I can’t even talk about without teary eyes.  I do my best to let go, or tuck these things away somewhere in a spare brain compartment, hoping not to think of them too often.

It is not unusual to find love letters, adoption papers for a child that never knew they were adopted, or evidence of an extramarital affair.  On occasion though, we find things like suicide notes, drug abuse issues, different levels of pornography … some so bizarre it challenges my understanding of humans.  These still leave a mark of sadness upon one’s soul.

We see the dark portals in people’s lives after they leave.  We will never have a clear understanding of why these people did what they did, made certain decisions, or why on earth they would ever leave those secrets behind to be found.  I think to myself how fortunate it was that my company was the one who found those items, instead of a family member who may be traumatized for the rest of their life.  It is my cross to carry … discretion and protection.

Uncovering these secrets casts a shadow which can change your feelings about the person who has died, not to mention seriously tarnishes their personal legacy.

Some things need to be told to the family

and some secrets need to go to the grave with the deceased loved one.

Remember: The dead cannot defend themselves or their actions.

It is difficult to write these things.  We must not only think about ourselves and what we desire, but we must think about those we leave behind and what they may find.

TIP OF THE WEEK:

Clean your home and clean your life! 

Leave a legacy, not strife!

©2016 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 February 5, 2016 at 11:05 am  Comments (1)  
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Perils of Preposterous Pricing, Part 2

Older “die-hard” collectors are passing away and selling their massive collections all at once.  So who is going to buy all these items?  Some will be sold to today’s collectors, though far fewer in number than serious collectors years ago.  Hence, these collections are saturating the market, driving prices and values lower.  Too much supply, not enough demand.

Let’s return to the seller wanting to sell items they believe are valuable just because mom paid a fortune for them.  They believe what they have is special and unique.  Most of the time, figurines, china, collector’s plates, glassware, Victorian furniture and the like have saturated the market because millions of our moms and dads are passing away.  Boomers are downsizing.  Generation X and Y don’t want these items.  Millennials are into themselves, not material possessions.  These younger generations collect virtually, not materially.

When an heir is looking to sell Lenox, Waterford, Hummel, Franklin Mint, Depression glass, antique furniture, large wardrobes, entertainment centers, and china hutches, the estate experts only have to show how very flooded the market is to get the consumers to understand that these items are now worth very little.

When I look on Ebay and see a “sterling silver lot of 50 grams,” I wonder why on earth one would attempt to sell it for $200 when it would barely get $30 with the current spot price of silver, unless it was a unique designer piece or desirable manufacturer.  Asking outrageous prices for items that are clearly not worth it any longer will backfire on the seller.

It is what it is.  No expert, myself included, can alter these trends of simplification, downsizing, and squeezing more bang out of a buyer’s buck than we already do.  The market is speaking and we need to listen.

Another issue?  Many people with a smart phone in their hand believe they are an expert.  I can assure you they are not.  They just Google over-inflated prices, unless they are wanting to buy.  If they are buyers, they search for the lowest possible prices in hopes of getting an item at a small cost.  These issues are just the tip of the iceberg for what experts are dealing with as they handle personal property while managing clients’ expectations.

It takes an expert many years to understand trends, observe patterns, know how to maximize value, and offer the best value for the client.  Do-it-yourselfers often do themselves a disservice by not enlisting the assistance of a professional who is experienced in all of the above.

©2016 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.

Perils of Preposterous Pricing, Part 1

Where do people come up with these prices and values?  Understanding the difference between what was paid for an item and what you can sell the item for in today’s market is like the difference between buying a new car and selling it used.  Depreciation has taken place in most cases.  Much has changed in the secondary marketplace.  Sellers must realize that there must first be someone who wants the item (demand) in order for it to have and hold value.

People still call my office to inform me of what their items are worth, even though they are hiring me to find out. I don’t normally mind when they say they already know the value because they “found it on the internet.”.  Many of them have it wrong or have searched incorrectly.  They see an “asking” price – a ridiculously high dollar figure that came from someone else’s head – which is now stuck in their head.  They would like to believe and hope that this is the value.

The responsibility for sharing valuation knowledge with clients falls to all estate experts.  We have to help clients set reasonable expectations.  Some people will heed what we have to say, while others will continue to believe that if it was valuable in 1982, it must be more valuable today.  These individuals are in for a rude awakening, resulting in anger and frustration which they will probably take out on the individual selling their items for them.

Who comes up with values?  Ultimately, it used to fall on the serious collectors who set trends and values.  Marketability and collect-ability are somewhat related.  If an item belongs to a category of objects that people desire and collect, then logically that item’s value increases.  However, we need to consider that the current market is fairly saturated with many of the collectibles that were highly sought after 20, 30, 40+ years ago, back when our parents’ generation paid top dollar for them.

Older “die-hard” collectors are passing away and selling their massive collections all at once.  We’ll look at how this complicates the market and depresses the values next week in “Perils of Preposterous Pricing, Part 2”.

©2016 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 January 18, 2016 at 10:49 am  Comments (1)  
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The Gucci Purse

My holiday season was filled with the urge to purge.  I swept through the house like a cyclone, pulling things out to give away, sell, and discard.  My daughter didn’t know what to think and my husband kept asking, “Are you sure you want to get rid of that?”  If you feel like your home needs to be on a diet, you know exactly how I was feeling!

Today in our guest closet, I came across an authentic vintage Gucci purse my aunt purchased for my mother when she traveled to Rome about 45 years ago.  It was still in the original soft dust cover and is still like new.  It is burgundy in color and not really my style, but when mom died, I kept it.

Question #1 … “Why did I keep this?”

As I held it, inspecting its near “mint condition”, I wondered out loud why people hold on to things instead of actually using them.  I can hear echoes of mom’s voice saying something like, “Oh, that is a very expensive handbag and I will only wear it on very special occasions.”

That memory led me to question #2 … “Why wait for special occasions?”

Why not throw caution to the wind

and enjoy the heck out of what you have,

regardless of the season or the reason?

When mom was living, it was up on the top shelf of her closet collecting dust.  Funny how it ended up on my closet shelf collecting dust.  Why would I hold on to things if I get no use or enjoyment out of them?

This brought me to a decision that honestly needed to be made … Will I ever use it, and do I love it so much that I can’t let go?  NO and NO.

So the Gucci bag will be sold.  Someone I adored kept it and she never enjoyed it.  I never enjoyed it either.  So this purse has led a very dull life!

Someone SHOULD enjoy it, even if it isn’t me.

In almost every estate I work in, we find the drawers filled with linens and candles galore.  One day, my assistant said to me, as we were cleaning out a sideboard full of candles, “Wouldn’t it be a great idea if some of these people actually enjoyed using these things prior to their death?  YES, it would; otherwise, what’s the point?

I have come to the conclusion that I won’t miss a thing that left my home in the past two weeks.  My home has a new, light feel to it and I am enjoying that sensation.

Now if I would only shed a few pounds myself ….

©2016 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 January 8, 2016 at 11:01 am  Comments (2)  
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5 Promises to Yourself This New Year

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LET IT GO.

Let go of anything that weighs you down.  Surplus material possessions and stuff that no longer has meaning, people and relationships that are toxic, that closet that is overflowing.  Give to those who really need it.  Just let go!  Start singing the song lyrics, “Let it go, Let it go.”  The time is right.  You will immediately feel lighter, and more open space will provide an uplift in your spirit.  Who doesn’t need that?

IF SOMETHING YOU TRIED LAST YEAR DIDN’T WORK OUT, KEEP TRYING DIFFERENT WAYS UNTIL IT DOES WORK.

If it’s a good goal for you, there’s likely more than one way to accomplish it.  Try, try again in new and different ways.  Maybe the timing wasn’t right, but the plan was.  Ask close friends or colleagues what they would do.  Valued opinions and objective third parties may well be the sounding board you need and provide the brilliant idea you were seeking.

BROADEN YOUR HORIZONS.

No more excuses!  Take that class, pursue that hobby, go to that place you’ve always wanted to see.  Just do it!  Spend some time on you. I just signed up for a comprehensive first aid course because I feel that would be good knowledge to have.  But I sure could use a trip to the Bahamas … (grin).

PRACTICE APPRECIATION.

Open your eyes and look for the simple pleasures in your life.  Put forth a little effort to see the good in the world, because every day we are bombarded with the bad.  Sometimes you need to go for a walk and admire nature, the changing leaves, a lake, a puppy, your neighbor’s flower garden.  Take a walk, look at the sky, and take deep breaths.  A survey of centenarians (100 years old and over) shows they attribute their longevity to simple pleasures like walking barefoot, watering their garden, eating their favorite food, swimming, etc.

TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO THINK POSITIVELY.

Yes, much is wrong with our world today, but there is still much good in it.  Add to that list of positives.  Go forth, do good things, be a better person, and make a difference for others.  Volunteer to help someone do what they can’t do alone.  Give, knowing they can’t give back to you.  The rewards are far greater than you know!  It comes back ten-fold and gives you a strong sense of purpose.

 

©2015 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 December 28, 2015 at 11:53 am  Comments (8)  
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How to Feel Fulfilled This Christmas

Things do bring instant gratification, but not long-lasting happiness. 

We keep buying more things to keep feeling good.  Sometimes we use things to ease unresolved pain and issues.  We continue to accumulate debt, but are still left unfulfilled and discontented.  In the end, these things end up in the hands of family or a professional to sell them.

Want to feel fulfilled?  Make a Difference!

  • Dress the less fortunate by sorting your clothing, shoes, etc. and donating what you don’t use.  Do the same with surplus items in your food pantry.
  • Bust the clutter in your attics and garages.  So much that you have laying around can be used by someone in need.  Find the appropriate organizations and give your clutter away.
  • Practice the art of giving from the heart.
  • Refrain from unnecessary purchases for at least six months.

Time’s running out for Christmas shopping, your debt is growing, and you still don’t know what to buy for certain people on your list.  What to do?

Why buy anything?

Why not give the best gift in the world — yourself?

  • Go visit someone you have been meaning to see for a long time. Surprise a loved one you haven’t seen for years.
  • Write that letter, bake those cookies.
  • Volunteer for those needing your help or visit shut-ins.
  • Make that phone call to make amends, because you and your mother haven’t spoken in years.
  • Bring your children to an assisted living or nursing home, and watch the residents light up. Have your children draw pictures and then visit and sing for those in shelters or facilities.
  • Say what you need to say, and do so right now.
  • Ask for forgiveness and always offer it, no matter what.
  • Offer hugs to those who really need it.
  • Make gifts for everyone on your list.
  • Listen to your elders because you will learn so much.

Not sure what to give the senior adult on your list?

  • Spend a full day with them and ask them to share stories of your family history — fun stories, challenges, family secrets, marriages, customs — and look through old photos. Record this day and create a book for them (with copies for your family members), so it may be passed down for years to come. Many children regret not having more family history, but realize this only after the loved one has died.
  • Find a special photograph and frame it. Ask an elder for a secret family recipe, so it can be carried on; then make it for them.

When we think of the upcoming holidays, we also need to be counting the multitude of blessings we do have, rather than wishing for the ones we don’t have. Make it a special holiday for others, and it will come back to you, in the form of contentment and joy — both in giving and in receiving.

©2015 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 December 16, 2015 at 10:28 am  Comments (4)  
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Just in Time for Christmas

You know how passionate I am about helping people deal with their stuff or a family member’s estate.  If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you have seen me talk about tips, options, and solutions based on decades of experience.

I decided to take my best knowledge and pack it all into a new book, “What am I Going to Do With All My STUFF?”  This book gives you step-by-step direction and best practices for the downsizing process.

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When you have no idea where to begin, I give you the resources and brain of an expert,  including the pros and cons of each possible option, for making solid decisions when it is time to simplify or downsize your personal property.

Based on 25 years of my experience and insider know-how, this book will give you all the following:

  • Where do you begin?
  • Understand value and the characteristics of value
  • How to thin out the house one room at a time
  • Determine your options for selling: Pros and Cons
  • Handle large collections and items of value
  • Determine what to keep, sell, donate and discard
  • Overcome potential obstacles and factors that hinder the process
  • Find professional help you can trust
  • Avoid the mistakes people make
  • Make peace with letting go

It’s available online at Amazon.com in e-book and paperback formats.  Here’s a quick link to the e-book: E-book purchase

Here’s what one reviewer says about the book:

Overall, if you are facing the task of cleaning out a deceased loved one’s home or are simply trying to downsize the clutter you have in your home, this is definitely the book for you. Ms. Hall is very clear and concise with her suggestions and methods, and in the end, you will feel accomplished and at peace with a job well done.

Here are another reviewer’s observations:

Though Hall notes that the target audience of this book are baby boomers, I feel that adults of all ages will benefit. She gives you a plan on how and where to start the process of shedding material possessions.

I am writing this review on Black Friday as the media keeps telling us to buy more “stuff”. Instead I’ll remember Julie Hall’s advice, “Give to those who are really in need. That item that you ‘might need one day’ is needed every day by someone else.”

Actually What Am I Going To Do With All My STUFF? will  make the prefect gift for the holidays. I think my husband, mom, kids (who are in their 20’s), and many friends will benefit from this book.

I am passionate about educating people, so I’m proud to present this project to you, my readers.  Best regards as you let go and simplify your stuff.  Here’s to a 2016 with less clutter and more calm!

©2015 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.

 

“B GR8FUL”

The license plate on the car in front of me during a long stretch of monotonous highway read,  “B GR8FUL.”  I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a personal reminder to me, or if it was meant for all who read it, spreading a positive message during what seem to be nutty, uncertain times.  All one has to do is turn on the news and feel that terrible “ugh” inside.

My husband and daughter were snoozing in the car, and I was pensive as usual behind the wheel, thinking about everything from the economy, to family, to work, to you name it.  I, like many of you, am worried about the state of our world and economy and where it will leave the different generations in the years to come.  Both young and old alike have many pressures these days.

I worry about my daughter’s future, which is probably normal for parents to feel.  I worry about my clients who are facing hard times, due to health or financial problems.  I seem to worry about things that I realize none of us have control over.  For me, I have found it best to stay close to family, dear friends, and my faith.

The worries seemed endless while I was driving.  Then I saw this simple license plate:  “BGR8FUL.”  There was an instant calm when I saw it, and I know that I needed to take those worries and transfer them into appreciation for all that we do have.  Because when you step back and look at the grand scheme of things, we really do have for very much to be “gr8ful” for.

GR8FUL

Blessings to you and your family this Thanksgiving, from my family and me.

©2015 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 November 25, 2015 at 9:03 am  Comments (3)  
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Procrastination is Risky!

“When the boat reaches midstream, it is too late to mend the leaks.”

~ A Chinese proverb

Mary was 96 years old and had a lovely 3-bedroom home filled with antiques and collectibles passed down from previous generations.  With great pride, Mary had done everything right with these heirlooms.  She left all items in their original condition (never refinished or repainted them), knew all the history of each piece, kept them out of direct sunlight, and never placed them in her attic.

But Mary made a huge error along the way; she procrastinated about making an estate plan for her personal assets and preparing for her own death.  In fact, she didn’t even have a legal will.

I remember meeting Mary about 6 months prior to her passing.  Her two children were present, and everyone wanted to know the values of her lovely possessions.  The children hoped that my visit would convince their mother of her urgent need to prepare a will, so her wishes would be known and fulfilled after her death.  At length, I spoke with Mary about the importance of documenting all her wishes for her children.  I shared stories of some past clients who did not plan ahead and what happened afterwards .. usually leaving behind a nightmare for the heirs.

I made the assumption that at 96, Mary had accepted her advanced age and her close proximity to death.  However, she had a great difficulty accepting her mortality.

“I do not need a will.  I have written my wishes for my children on a piece of notebook paper; that is good enough.  If it isn’t good enough, then my kids will just have to fight over it.”

The children looked at me and grimaced.  They knew the complications that awaited them if mom did not get legal assistance to prepare her last wishes and plans.  These complications can be years of red tape, tremendous financial pressures to settle the estate, family feuds, etc.  This is simply not fair to do to children, not to mention it’s a terrible legacy to leave!

What happened with Mary’s estate?

No one ever found her handwritten will on the yellow notebook papers; it became a nightmare for the family.  It became a litany of “Mom said I could have this” and “No, she promised that to me.”  Mary was wrong in her thought process and her lack of actions to distribute her property the way she wanted it to be.  She lost all of that because she did not legally prepare.

Isn’t it interesting that she cared so very deeply for her possessions while she was alive, yet did not have a legal plan for them upon her death?

 Mary’s reasons for procrastination will never be known to any of us.  Some are afraid of even talking about death.  We shouldn’t be; it’s a certainty.  The older generation seems to be parted into three groups.  Those that are completely prepared, those who won’t even discuss it and leave it all on their children’s shoulders, and those that simply sit on it for years and procrastinate the inevitable.  For those in the last two groups, life will be most difficult for your children and heirs.

The good news is there is still time, if you are reading this.  Take action today and leave a positive legacy.

©2015 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.

Nostalgia is Not Hereditary

Why on earth do we hold on to so much stuff that we never use or even want?  That is the million dollar question!  As time goes on, I see more and more people holding on to items from estates, that they don’t really need, and truth be told, don’t really want either.

It is natural to have emotional attachments to objects in grandmother’s home, our own parents’ home, or to anyone dear to us who has passed away.  These emotions can be deeply anchored to memories of cherished people, places, and special times; it becomes a priority to preserve these memories after they go.

Sometimes, we can go overboard and start keeping things for ourselves, our kids and grandchildren, who may not be interested in them at all.

If you only take one thing away from today’s blog, let it be this:

Emotional attachment does not guarantee a transference of emotion from one generation to the next generation.  The relationship between a grandmother and grandchild is different than that of a mother and child, and so on.  Each subsequent generation will most likely not feel the same emotional tug that you might.  It is important to realize this and to accept it.

When you do not accept this and you continue to hold onto things that take up a great deal of space, and don’t mean much to the children or heirs, you become a storage facility for your family.  In addition, a new and unpleasant situation will arise where the next generation (the one that doesn’t desire these items to begin with) must now bear the burden of dealing with the stuff after we leave this earth.

I can virtually guarantee they will not care for these items the way you do, and often are upset and resentful when having to sell or discard them.  When this happens, hasty decisions are made to “just get rid of it.”

Choose only your favorite things and let the rest go.

Future generations will be most appreciative.

©2015 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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