If I Hadn’t Gone Out in the Storm

Having worked 14 hours yesterday, I was really dragging when I finally arrived home from an estate.   I had missed lunch and dinner, was dehydrated, had 11 phone calls to return, and an appraisal to complete.  It was a harrowing day: people not showing up, challenges at the estate, the phone wouldn’t stop ringing, etc.  At home, there was no peace either: the house was messy, my daughter needed help, and the cat needed to be fed and medicated.  How can anyone work this hard?  I thought to myself.

The torrential rain came with the thundering on the roof and windows.  I was finally relieved to be printing off my appraisal report.  All of a sudden, no ink remained and the printer came to a screeching halt.  Time was a factor; I had to print it out and get it in the mail.  Glancing outside, I knew I had to go out in the storm, as tired as I was.  The truth is I didn’t want to go, and I started having a little pity party all by myself, in the confines of my office.  My daughter felt badly because she had used my printer relentlessly for a school project, which left me with no ink.

I glanced at the raging storm outside.  It’s now or never.  It’s got to get done.

I grabbed my keys and was on my way to Staples, but it closed 4 minutes before I arrived.  Just my luck.  I drove further in the rain to find another store and finally got my ink, just in time before they closed.  Sopping wet and resigned to my situation, I drove home animatedly, talking out loud in the car about all my complaints.  Finally I turned the corner heading home, and instantly, the rain stopped, the sun popped out, and this is what I saw.  I pulled to the side of the road to take this photo and share it with you.

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If I hadn’t gone out in the storm, I never would have seen this beauty.  My Grinch face softened into a smile, knowing someone up above had my back.  I couldn’t help but wonder if I was just a little too busy chasing that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, instead of realizing I already had it.

We all work hard and it can be a challenge to make ends meet and make things work for us.  Sometimes we need a sign of hope and joy to remind us it’s the simple things that make us smile the most.  My favorites? Chocolate, gardening, blissful naps, my cat’s purring, and the “buzz” of a hummingbird.

©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 April 23, 2015 at 8:35 am  Comments (6)  
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Giving While Still Living

Every estate plan should have a mandatory requirement: give away what you have (or at least part of it) while you are physically and mentally able to do so.  It is so important to make sure things are done the way you would like them, instead of through an unsuspecting family member or friend, who could make poor decisions with your assets.

Sometimes, those chosen to make decisions, make very poor decisions; some based on greed and not putting the loved one’s wishes at the forefront.  In some cases, the person chosen is just the wrong one to make these decisions; choosing wisely is half the battle.  Sadly, some feel they are entitled and help themselves, or they do not communicate clearly with other heirs.

I have seen this scenario so often; it leaves me with chills every time I think about it.  I have been brought into homes while mom is literally taking her last breaths.  I would have declined the visit, if I had known.  I have seen children steal while mom is sleeping in the next room (“She’ll never miss this.”)  I have been discovered that children have showed up with moving trucks in the dark of night to take what they want, never to be heard from again.  I have seen a woman steal jewelry from a dying girlfriend as she napped.  Sigh …

It brings me great joy when I can bring light to dark situations.  But what I can’t figure out is why people behave in this manner?  How on earth can they sleep at night?  I cannot imagine anyone doing such things and sleeping soundly.

My mind returns back to handling my own parents’ estate and how well my brother and I managed it.  We split everything right down the middle, down to the penny, just as mom and dad wanted it to be.  We loved them so much that we knew their money was first and always for their care.  They were the priority and we made sure they had what they needed.

Looking back, I am glad that mom gifted some things to me while she was still living.  When my father died last, I realized they had not gifted to my sibling, like mom did for me.  So when dad passed, it was important that my brother have grandfather’s war medals of courage, dad’s jewelry and college ring, etc.  It was only fair and that was the way we wanted it.  Since our parents were no longer there, we carried on in the way they wanted us to treat each other.

For those who may be struggling with this issue, allow me to interject a powerful thought.  With all the clients I have had in my career, I can assure you that the ones who

  • MAKE PLANS
  • STICK WITH THE PLAN, and
  • GIFT AHEAD OF TIME

fare much better than those who

  • DON’T PLAN
  • LEAVE OTHERS TO DECIDE FOR THEM, and
  • ANGER OTHERS.

SEIZE THIS MOMENT!

Gift to those who are special to you.  If your gifts are significant, please talk with your attorney or CPA for guidance.  If your gifts are sentimental, be as equitable as possible and give these items in person, so there are no questions later.  This simple gesture will not only offer joy to someone you care about, but you will also simplify what has to be divided later.

Accept this advice from one who really knows!

©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.

 

Fighting Over the Same Heirloom

Problem: Two of my siblings are fighting over the same heirloom.  How do you divide and keep it fair?

SOLUTION:  When two or more are arguing over the same item(s), you have a few options.  Beware, not all options will meet with approval.  Begin by getting a personal property appraisal on the items that the heirs desire, including the items that are the subject of the fighting.  This objective, third-party person will assign values that are fair, since they have no interest in the items.

Try to keep everything as equitable as possible to keep the peace!  This also depends on what the will/trust specifies.  If Sue gets a $5,000 item and Barbara gets a $200 item, that is not equitable.  Arrangements must be made, whether in cash assets or other items, to make up for that $4,800 deficit.

  • One sibling can offer to buy the item from the others and take it out of their inheritance, if there is one.  The price would be based on the appraised value.
  • If this item has significantly more value than other items in the estate, then that one choice will have to suffice until others get their pick of items and arrive at the approximate value.
  • If two people want a china set or silver flatware service, can it be divided?  Sure, but know that from the perspective of an estate expert, it is not advisable.  If this set were to be sold one day, it would be worth more to a collector/buyer if the set were intact and complete.
  • One heir simply “turns the other cheek” and forfeits to the other.
  • The two can write up an agreement and share the item, if it is practical to share.  However, this only postpones that inevitable decision later in life.  When the siblings die, the buck has been passed to their children to contend with the same issue.
  • If no one can agree and no one is willing to give in, the executor should consider selling the item through an appropriate selling venue and split the profits between all the heirs.  Yes, the siblings will be upset, but that is more acceptable than resenting each other for the rest of their lives.  If they remain in a tug-of-war, no solution provided is going to work.
  • What would mom or dad want?  Would they approve of this tension?  In most cases, the answer is a resounding NO.  They would be disappointed.  They trusted you to make decisions that they probably should have made when they were alive, but for whatever reason, they didn’t.  You can’t go back; you can only go forward.  Go forward, knowing what your parents would have wanted, and be fair to each other.
  • If nothing else works, you could always flip a coin and let the odds decide for you.

Realize that these situations can be highly charged with tension and emotion.  Everyone is not going to be happy 100% of the time.  There are very few instances where everything comes out flawless.  Spare the relationships by keeping the peace.

©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.

The Roses

SAMSUNGRemember when we were little kids and our eyes went directly to the big, brightly colored, sugar-icing roses on our birthday cakes?  Everyone fought over those colorful, sugary roses that contained enough fuel to shoot us to the moon and back, or at least until midnight when the sugar buzz finally wore off and we crashed wherever we landed.  We were probably 5 or 6 years old, but already we had learned a lesson that would follow us throughout our lives.

The voice in our heads beckoned us to eat as much as possible including all those coveted roses.  After all, “it’s my cake, my birthday!  Why shouldn’t I have it all to myself?”

Mother’s quiet, yet serious tone forced me to share, and share equally among the other children at my party.  “You have to be fair to everyone,” she would say.

But that just isn’t fair to me, I thought to myself.  It’s my cake!  I should have all of the slices of cake with the roses on them.  (The roses were, and still are, my favorite.)

So it is with much of life.  We all want the “roses” in life; that includes our loved one’s estates.  You’ve had your eye on that antique grandfather clock, or mom’s diamond ring, or dad’s fishing lure collection for years.  You believe you should have them, or perhaps they were promised to you long ago, so you just assume they will be yours one day.  Then that “one day” comes and your siblings claim the same thing, so the trouble begins.  Indeed, every rose has its thorn.

Until items are gifted to you in person prior to infirmity or death, or until there is a written plan for those heirlooms upon a loved one’s passing, you are entitled to nothing unless it is given to you.  Even if you don’t end up with your beloved “rose,” remember that while we would like to have the majority of the cake, it’s good and appropriate to share as equally as possible, even if you feel it shouldn’t be that way.

I have seen with my own eyes good and poor behavior when dividing estates.  Those who lead with kindness and care for others end up faring the rocky experience pretty well.  Others will watch how you react, respond, and behave.  Much to my surprise, they will usually follow suit, especially if the plan is laid out before them.

Make a pact that there will be no fighting.  “Roses” are great, but peace is even better!

©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.

 

“Swim to the Ladder!

AN IMPORTANT LIFE LESSON

At six years old, my only experience with swimming was at the local county pool in the kiddie side, not in the deep end where all the big kids played.  I loved the water and mom always had trouble getting me out, until one day, fate had another plan for me.

We went to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins who had a second home on the water.  Uncle Joe enjoyed clamming so we ventured out to get some clams for dinner.  After we drove the boat to a favorite spot, the adults went clamming.  Some of the kids paddled around in the water, including me, bobbing up and down in the Atlantic.  I always wore my life jacket, and adults were within arms’ length.

When we were all back in the boat toweling off, Uncle Joe asked me if I knew how to swim.  “Not really,” I said, “but I can dog paddle a little.”  In front of my protective mom, he unclasped my life jacket, picked me up, and tossed me into the ocean with incredible strength.  It felt like he threw me far away from the boat; in reality, it may have been 12 feet.

Amid my own panic, I could hear my mother vocally upset with Uncle Joe, screeching, “Dear God, Joe, what have you done?  She can’t swim!”  The boat seemed so far away and I was already swallowing plenty of salt water, thrashing about and tired.  I still remember vividly this terrifying experience.  My little legs moved very fast to keep my head above water.

He stopped my mother from jumping overboard and said, “Watch what she’s going to do.  Trust her.”

 Uncle Joe: “Julie, swim to the ladder on the side of the boat.”

Julie: “I can’t. It’s too far!”

Uncle Joe: “Swim to the ladder; you’re closer than you think.”

Julie: “I can’t.  Someone help me! (cough, cough)”

Uncle Joe: “You can do it on your own. Use your arms and legs. Swim to the ladder.”

Mom was still hassling Uncle Joe and he kept telling her, “Watch what she’s going to do.  She knows what to do instinctively.

Finally, I made it to the infamous ladder.  Waterlogged, ticked off beyond comfort, and angry at Uncle Joe, I didn’t speak to him for the remainder of the trip.  I had swallowed enough of the Atlantic to last a lifetime.  Why couldn’t he have just taken me in the water, like my dad did, and slowly guide me to the boat by the hand?  WHY such a harsh manner of teaching?

Hmmm.  Let’s consider this for a moment.  Sometimes we all need to be thrown in and “awakened.”

He said, “Watch her. Trust her.”

“You’re closer than you think.”

“You know what to do; swim to the ladder!”

He trusted me, my instinct, my ability; he taught me that I can do it.  I was so scared in the water, crying and yelling at the same time, really believing I was going to drown.  But instead, I made it to the ladder because of what he was saying to me.

All of us need to remember that no matter what ladder we are swimming toward, we will make it if we keep trying and don’t give up on ourselves and the loved ones who help us along the way.

boat ladderWhether you are starting a new company, handling a challenging estate, dealing with an illness, living through difficult circumstances, etc., my wish for you is that you have someone like Uncle Joe, who is on the sideline cheering you on.

I couldn’t stay mad at Uncle Joe for very long.  He must have seen a tenacity in me, even at a young age, and believed anything is possible.  And it is!

©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 March 19, 2015 at 10:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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Scoundrels and Schemers

Louise was a wealthy woman in her advanced stages of a terminal illness, was blind, completely deaf, and in her final stage of dementia.  She could no longer communicate and decisions were being made for her by an old friend she trusted.  Louise had never married and had no children, but did have four beneficiaries to her estate.  All four really loved her and provided the very best care for her in a beautiful health center for the remainder of her days.

One of Louise’s passions in life was purchasing fine diamonds; she had several pieces that were very large and easily worth in the six-figure range.  Everyday, she wore them because she loved them.  Louise bathed in them, napped in them, slept in them, and ate in them.

The beneficiaries started to grow concerned about these pieces of jewelry Louise wore on her person, for a number of reasons.

  • Most people don’t even have pieces as valuable as these, and if they did, the pieces would be kept in a safe, vault, or safe deposit box.
  • The beneficiaries did the right thing in requesting the rings be removed while Louise was napping, to have the genuine diamonds replaced with less expensive stones, in the event something should happen to the rings.
  • The genuine diamonds would then have been turned over to the trustee of the estate and secured.  Who could possibly blame them for wanting the diamonds protected?

Unfortunately, the decision-maker overseeing Louise’s assets insisted that Louise should continue to wear those massive stones against everyone’s advice.

One day, less than 2 weeks after this request to have each diamond removed and replaced with cubic zirconia, the massive diamond pieces Louise was wearing disappeared.  Not only did these pieces disappear, but a video camera, some CDs and a crock put vanished as well from Louise’s home.  This was a clear indication to the family that the caregiver, sitter, or someone else who had very close contact with her, had made off with the goods.  The beneficiaries were beside themselves.

Why didn’t anyone prevent this from happening?

Why didn’t anyone listen to their request?

With all the questions and accusations that flew, the damage was done.  The diamonds were gone, never to be found again, probably sold at a pawn shop for a few thousand dollars and currently sitting in someone’s safe as their own retirement investment.

It is simply up to us, the chosen decision-makers,

to make the correct decisions to care for and

protect our loved ones (and their assets)

who cannot make decisions for themselves.

This story clearly demonstrates that we must exercise extreme caution with valuables.  Remember to have them evaluated by a professional, have those values documented, and keep them in a safe place until they are either distributed to family or sold.  The faces of exploitation are often familiar faces and not necessarily a stranger.

©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.

The Progressive Journey

Sitting and writing in my office, I am treated to a few, rare and quiet moments.  The sound of silence bothers some people, but I rather like it.  It allows me to think and listen to my own inner guidance.  Today, I’d like to share some thoughts with you about the past, present, and future.  This thing called life is really quite amazing, especially when you glance in the rear-view mirror.

Sometimes the past is not such an easy place to visit.  Personally, I only go there long enough to learn from or remember the good, and how that good has sculpted me into the human being I turned out to be.  True, you shouldn’t go backwards, but there are times it is necessary for growth.  My mind ventures back to my long-ago, taken there as I sort through decades of my parents’ photographs throughout our lives.  With a smile, I am reminded what a good life I have had and continue to have; though, none of us can claim life was perfect.

This is the past and I wouldn’t trade it,

even if I could turn the clock back. 

It is the foundation of who we are and how we came to be.

Few of us are fortunate enough to love our chosen work, but I live and breathe mine.  Serving others with skills I have accrued through decades of experience, feeling others’ pain and solving estate problems has enabled me to serve, guide, and help people.  As a result, I sleep very well at night.  However, the thought occurred to me that I didn’t get here quickly, and I certainly didn’t get here by myself.  Sometimes we unintentionally take things like this for-granted.

When I go back to where my real journey began as a young adult, I am suddenly reminded of all the kind, giving, creative, helpful, odd, patient, gentle, appreciative, harsh, happy, and sad people who have crossed my path and helped me along the way.  It takes all kinds.  Some were incredible teachers, both good and bad.  Some made me laugh until my ribs hurt.  Some inflicted great pain.  Some taught me what real suffering is, and others taught me how blessed I am.  But all of them were teachers.  We are teachers, too.

We are never alone and never on this journey without purpose.

While we may not necessarily understand what the purpose is, we need to move in a forward motion, lest we get “stuck.”  Each experience seems to be a stepping stone to another place, another direction, and then our purpose(s) may be revealed.  We get to choose that place and direction, and hopefully, we choose wisely.

This is where we are.

The choices we make here in our present

will have an impact on our future and our loved ones’ futures.

We are all connected.

As for the future, it is not yet written.  Like an artist standing in front of a blank canvas, we can (with some luck and strong faith) create something really good.  But, it is unknown and most people find that a little scary.

I don’t know anything about the future, but I do know that, in getting there, we can’t keep looking in the rear-view mirror.  If we do that, we will not move forward and fulfill what we are here to do.

We should use all that we learned in the past, and here in the present, to help create a better future for ourselves, albeit unknown.  We also need to be extraordinary teachers, all of us.

I am reminded of a thought-provoking snippet from a famous quote of Captain James T. Kirk from the original Star Trek series:

 To Boldly Go

It has an exciting ring to it, don’t you think?

©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 March 5, 2015 at 10:40 am  Comments (5)  
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Stretched to the Limit

KNOW THE FEELING?

It’s not difficult to look around and see that many of us are surviving by the skin of our teeth.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day.  Life is much more challenging in many aspects than it used to be, yet somehow we all seem to think it’s easier with our electronic gadgets close in-hand.

With the onset of technology, such as smart homes, smart electronics, iPhones, latest and greatest cars, etc., shouldn’t our lives be easier?  The cars are getting to the point of not even needing a driver (sooner than you think), our appliances do all the work for us, and our social media makes the world a much smaller place.  So why aren’t we more rested?

These things enable us to do more in a given day, but our days are just getting busier, not easier.  Because gadgets break and malfunction, dishes still need to be put in cabinets when clean, and human interaction and input is required at every turn, it’s no wonder we are exhausted, distracted, and as a result, sometimes unproductive.  But, we still beat ourselves up because we aren’t accomplishing enough!  That’s a tiring cycle too!

I have my theories that many of us have become “attached” in some way to the craziness.  My own teenage daughter nearly floored me the other day by simply announcing,

“I wish I grew up in your day, mom, when things were simpler.  Technology has made life much harder.  We don’t even have books anymore; most of my “books” are online.  I don’t like that.”

Imagine that coming from a young adult!  I explained that every generation meets with it’s own challenges and difficulties.  We had trouble back in the day, as well, but not like today where we are all traveling at warp speed, breaking our necks to get things done in a tizzy, and often the quality lacks because we aren’t taking our time to perfect anything.  What a shame!

Maybe I am slowing down a little because I am aging a bit.

Maybe I am slowing down to recharge my batteries.

It has become painfully clear to me, and even in watching some of my family, friends, and clients, that we are all carrying heavy bags, uphill, every day.  It seems most of the actions and decisions we make are often driven by money, because money is important in this life; we have to make money to pay bills, our debts, etc.

But at the end of the day, or when we are in the car driving, do we really have to check our texts, as though the world would stop if we didn’t respond?  Can we just enjoy some music or our own thoughts for a little while?  Unplugging for a little time each day may be a very good thing.

We deserve a rest.

It took me awhile, but I have made a decision that was not easy to come by; I’m not checking the phone past 5:00 pm. unless it is urgent.  I will continue to help as many as I can during the day, while in the office, from the office phone and email, out in the field, etc., which I am always happy to do.  But my spirit ( and I am betting, yours) is in need of a bit of renewal and restoration.

No one will give me a break, but me

I guess I better start with the lady in the mirror.

How about you?

©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 February 27, 2015 at 10:25 am  Comments (4)  
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“I’ll Get to it One Day!”

While the sentiment is a good one, we all know human nature a little too well.  The trouble is, “one day” rarely comes.

  • Out of sight, out of mind.
  • I’ll get to that later.
  • I’ll look into that in the new year.
  • It’s not a priority right now.

It’s fascinating what we professionals notice in estates.  We see a distinct similarity in almost all of the estates we go into, especially if the estate belonged to an elderly loved one from the Depression Era.  The attics are usually full; interesting that 85% of them are full of things that really should have been disposed of 30+ years ago.

By the time we get into these attics to clear them out, the books are rotted and have been gnawed on, anything cardboard has pretty much disintegrated, clothing either smells like mildew or falls apart in our hands, or we find items that have long since been obsolete and no one has any use for them.  If items of value were stored in the attic, which is a big no-no, chances are good they have been damaged and the value greatly diminished.  This is not always the case, but generally what we find.  On very rare occasions, we find treasures hidden up there too, but they have been long forgotten and the family most likely was never told about them.

My assistant has a saying when we are working in the daunting attics, up to our elbows in stuff:

“They were young when they put this stuff up here.  By the time they finally figure out it has to be dealt with, they are elderly and can’t get up here anymore.  That’s how long this stuff has been sitting around and most of it is being discarded.  With all this paper up here, it’s a miracle the house didn’t go up like a match.”

This is accurate on many levels.  Time stops for no one.  We all have the best intentions of cleaning out the shed, garage, closets, cupboards.  But if you continue to procrastinate and something happens where you or your loved one is incapacitated, it truly leaves a burden for the ones you leave behind.  A bigger burden than you realize.

If you have had your sights on a project around the house which includes clearing out some stuff, make sure you know what it is worth before you sell it or give it away.  It is better to clear out the clutter now, so you can feel better and not worry later.  We all could probably come up with numerous excuses.  With spring coming, it’s time to just do it!

©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.

In Search of Sanity

I have a theory that people subconsciously believe their stuff will anchor them to this world.  They fill their homes with “treasures” as a sign of success; they “made it” in this life, in contrast to their parents who didn’t have much during the Depression.  They amass things out of fear, fear they will have to go without.  They may hold on to stuff out of guilt.  Finally, they may feel they are doing their children a favor by leaving them so many “valuable” things.

At some point, all this stuff becomes a proverbial monkey on someone’s back.  Someone will pull their hair out and cling to sanity trying to understand the estate settlement process.

I find it so interesting that people spend a lifetime collecting stuff, buying stuff, inheriting stuff, fighting over it, displaying it, talking about it … but they rarely make a plan for it.

Collections are one example.  Everybody collects something.  It’s exciting when you find a special piece you’ve been seeking for years.  When the word gets out that you collect cats, suddenly everyone buys you cats.  Metal, porcelain, glass, pottery … it doesn’t matter.  You get tons of cats whether you want them or not.  Next thing you know, you have 200 cats!

Let us not forget that we inherit items along the way, tripling (or more) what we already have.  Soon, our homes are bursting at the seams, our spouses are griping because of all the clutter, and our children let us know in no uncertain terms that they want nothing other than a ride to IKEA and cash, so they can buy what they want.

Every day, I am in multiple estates and I see all of our accumulations.  Some houses are neat and tidy, but the closets are bursting at the seams!  Things are strategically hidden!  Other homes are eclectic and interesting from world travels.  Still others are hoarders, thinking every possession is valuable, and they will not listen to the reasoning of a professional such as myself.

I can say with 100% certainty that we’re facing a major problem in this country as our seniors and boomers age and pass away.  Plain and simple, we just have too much stuff!  More is finding its’ way to the market every day as our elders die, and the boomers are getting the message to simplify their lives and let go of things that bog them down.

This simplification process has brought to the marketplace experts:

  • professional organizers
  • senior move managers
  • stagers
  • estate experts

Look for professionals who are trained, credentialed, belong to professional organizations, and have solid experience.  Start whittling down the years of stuff you no longer use or need.  Open up your space and let light in the house.  All my clients who have taken the downsizing plunge are thrilled they did it, and are now free to enjoy their lives.

As we make our way through our parents’ belongings, we also have our stuff to contend with at the same time.  It’s important to think ahead and have some kind of plan in place, whether giving/gifting in advance, or selling everything and buying only what you really need.  You will love the feeling of lightness.

Learn to let go.  Keep the next generation in mind as you are doing so.  It’s one of the best gifts you can give your family.

©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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