10 Estate Behavior Commands

With great reverence for God’s 10 commandments, here are the basic rules which should be followed in any and every estate situation.  Often, we aren’t thinking clearly in the middle of the estate settlement and distribution process.

While there are no laws that pertain to human behavior when handling an estate and the distribution of property, these commandments should be “etched in stone” to remind us how we should behave.

  1. Thou shalt not worship material possessions.  They can be a monkey on your back and, ultimately, you can’t take them with you.
  2. Greed and the love of possessions can be false idols which can, and often do, ruin families.
  3. Don’t forget to take Sabbath for yourself.  We all need time and space to breathe and reflect.
  4. Honor your loved one that just passed away.  Take actions that would respect them and make them proud.
  5. Thou shalt not kill thy family relationships by destroying your chance to find peaceful resolutions.  Mend your fences.
  6. Do not cheat anyone, including yourself, in the estate distribution process.
  7. Thou shalt not steal anything, even if you think no one is watching.  Someone is always watching.
  8. Thou shalt not throw thy sibling(s) under the bus.  What goes around often comes around.
  9. Thou shalt not covet anything a sibling gets.  It’s not worth it; let it go.
  10. Stay true to who you are and walk as straight a path as possible.  Not only is immediate family watching, but your children and grandchildren as well.  Set an excellent example.

©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

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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You Don’t Have to Keep the Things to Remember the Love

Julie blog picture

Nearly 50 years have passed since this photo was taken.  Yet I can tell you the occasion and the color of my dress, shoes, beloved teddy bear, and dad’s sunglasses.  He seemed as large as life to me; every time I looked up at dad, I felt like I was staring into the sun.  His hands were big, rough, and strong.  Strong enough to discipline us kids when we needed it, strong enough to pick us up when we fell and guide us when we grew.  When he was old and fragile, we used to walk hand in hand, his being much smaller and bony with the ravages of time, in my own strong hands that I inherited from him.  We would walk and I would listen to his stories of long ago.

On this day in the photo, Dad had given me this teddy bear, my new best friend, donning 1960s style red and white pajamas.  If I recall the family story, dad bought it off the back of a truck in New York City where he used to work.  I didn’t care where he got it.  It was a gift from him.  That made it really special, even all these years later, and especially now that he’s gone.

I do not have a clear recollection of where Teddy ever ended up, whether it was to a younger cousin or given to the church yard sale, but that old bear was loved and brought me lots of joy.  A special memory shared between a father and a daughter!

I struggle sometimes on the inside when my heart is hurting because of loved ones that have passed, and how much I feel their loss.  They are truly missed.

Even though they are gone, their spirit – the essence of who they were – isn’t gone!

They walk with me each day in my thoughts and I hold them dear.  You have relatives like that too.

We don’t need to take all their stuff after they pass and load up our own homes and lives in order to remember them.  Their stuff is still just stuff.

What makes their stuff special is who owned it, who used it, who loved it, or who gave it!

There is a season for every thing.  Sometimes, it’s the season to give their things to others who can really use the stuff or really need it far more than we do.

I can’t speak for any of you; this photo and the memory attached to it are a gift to only me … a snippet of a moment in my life and my father’s.  I ask you, could there possibly be any tangible item more special than that?

A diamond ring will sparkle only as long as you are here to enjoy it.  Money, houses, or cars can’t go with you either.  But a special memory sits in the heart forever.  That, my friends, is exactly what you can take with you!

©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 December 11, 2014 at 10:05 am  Comments (3)  
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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

The Emotional Porter

When I pack for a pleasure trip, I only allow myself to bring one piece of luggage.  I traveled for many years and made a habit of running for my plane in high heels and skirts (way back when).  Now that I am older, I do everything in my power to lighten my load, wear sensible shoes, and give my aching back a break.  I can’t wait to check my bag, sit down, and relax.

I think many of us lug around our emotional baggage on a daily basis and never bother to “check” it.  Maybe we don’t know how to, or maybe we just forget, so we end up dragging it with us wherever we go.  It gets rather tiring, doesn’t it?

In my business of helping clients sort through estates, after a loved one has moved to assisted living or has died, I see many children/heirs carry a lot of baggage with them, to the point of personal detriment.  I realize that we are not at our personal best when these situations occur, but even after months and years of not making proper decisions, we still carry our emotional baggage wherever we go.  It then becomes a monkey on our back, and we get angry and even resentful.  It chokes our spirit because we don’t know how to heal it.

This emotional baggage comes from a place of not dealing with our stuff ahead of time, before the loss.

  • Not speaking our truth,
  • Not making amends,
  • Not having that conversation when we could have,
  • Not asking the questions to get the answers we want,
  • Not healing wounds that could have been healed.

We forget to forgive ourselves for whatever is eating at us!

Besides all that, I see clients feeling guilty and taking possessions they don’t really want.  It only means we have more to carry, or more for our children to carry.  Life is hard enough.

We don’t need to lug around someone else’s sentiment or prized possessions.

That was their desire, not ours.

On some deep level, we must consider it our penance to drag around this baggage, like the ghost, Jacob Marley, in “A Christmas Carol” showing Scrooge all the heavy chains he must now carry, due to the choices he made in life.  PhotoMichalDanielIt doesn’t have to be like that; release yourself!

I see many children/heirs carry a lot of baggage with them, to the point of personal detriment.  Keeping too much stuff can cause divorce, tension, fighting, resentment, and anger among our still-living family.  It’s just not worth it!

Some would argue that everything they kept was sentimental, but you can’t squash mom’s household of stuff into your already-full household of stuff and expect everything to be ok.  There is only so much you can keep; it should never cause strife among siblings, spouses, or children.

Holding on to grandmother’s or dad’s possessions are not a mandate, not something you have to do.  It’s something you want to do.  Seriously edit your selections as you do.  If in doubt, listen to your inner voice and pass on the item.  Take a photo of it and pass it on.

Don’t be pushed, nudged, guilted, obliged, forced, or coerced by any person, any memory, any ghost, or more importantly, yourself.

©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

 

 

Ode to the Gardener – Important Life Lessons

Not so long ago, I stood by my father’s side witnessing the ever-advancing damage of dementia.  I knew deep inside that our time together was growing short from a cognitive perspective, but I never once took into consideration that he, himself, would be taken so quickly.  Dad was a Master Gardener who dedicated his life to understanding the soil, composting, plant diseases and cures, etc.

Dad volunteered 20,000 hours of his senior years teaching children in elementary, middle, and high schools how to nurture and grow vegetables, how to be more self-sufficient, how to be responsible, how to be part of something bigger than yourself.  He also went into prisons, as he wanted to give them a sense of hope and accomplishment.  Dad was sent a gold lapel pin award from President Bush, honoring his 20,000 hours of volunteering, and he was so proud of that pin.

When dad and I were in the garden together, he used to say there was no therapy better than sticking your hands in the earth and being a part of nurturing a plant to maturity, taking a back seat to mother nature, of course.  Little did I know, I would inherit his love for gardening and his green thumb as well.

There are many life lessons to be learned from gardening.  Below are several listed from Adam McCane’s site, which I really like; I just tweaked them a bit for purposes of this blog.

  1. What you water grows.  This simply means that we need to pay attention to ensure we are watered throughout life.  It is the most basic need we have, for without it, we would perish.  So will our plants that feed us, if we don’t take care of them or the earth.
  2. Weed regularly.  Weeds are deceptive.  You won’t notice them starting, but before you know it, they are choking out your veggies, stealing water and nutrients from your plants, and reproducing.  The rule in the garden is simple: If you see a weed, pick it!  The same is true for life.  Weeds and other “undesirables” have a way of creeping in on us.  We need to be mindful that we do not need any weeds in our lives, literally or figuratively.  Get rid of them and don’t feel bad about it.  All of us are tired of dealing with the weeds!
  3. Sharing the harvest.  It’s all about abundance, whether you are sharing veggies, flowers, time, care, love, etc.  Share what you have an abundance of and pay it forward.  It always finds its way back.
  4. Plant in the right season.  For everything, there is a time and purpose.  Sometimes, it is beyond our understanding.  I believe we reap what we sow.  Maybe it’s time to plant better, more productive things in our lives.  Feed your spirit by allowing only good things into your life now.  If you see things rotting, infested, etc., you will need to tend to them by getting rid of them, or proactively healing them.  TIme and nature will tell you which one it will be.
  5. Space is required for growth.  It’s hard to imagine how much room a vegetable is going to need when you grow it from seed or buy a seedling that is in a 5-inch pot.  Sometimes they grow so fast and thick, they can choke out other plants.  Giving a plant plenty of space is important for the health of the plant, so it receives plenty of sunshine and nutrients.  Providing this space will ensure our plants will be healthy, productive, and have plenty of breathable space.  We need to do this for ourselves and give that gift to others too.
  6. Pruning is necessary for abundance.  Cutting, pinching, or picking off dead leaves, branches, poor or weak fruit is necessary for the growth of the healthy fruit.  Vineyard pruners do this every day.  They know exactly how to cut the vine to promote healthy grapes.  While it may look harsh to see so much being removed, it gives the healthy portions of the plant more nutrients to produce the best fruit.  Sometimes, we need to look at ourselves the same way and learn how to prune ourselves by letting go of things that no longer serve our well-being and our highest good.

WP_002044 (2)Dad’s old garden hat is still hanging next to mine on a hook in my laundry room.  Every time I head out to the garden, Dad accompanies me in spirit.  I kept his watering can,  his old worn leather gloves, his t-shirts.  Those things were my father and how I remember him best.  I can still hear his voice guiding me in the stillness of my own vegetable patch.  Much of his advice to me through life also applies to the lessons of raising a successful garden, whatever “garden” we may be cultivating at any given 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

To Honor in Death as Much as in Life

Call me old-fashioned.  Call me a twentieth century throw-back.  It is apparent to me each time I meet a client, pick up the latest gadget, or look in the mirror, that I came from a different time.  It’s more than okay because I really liked the twentieth century, and I’m proud to have grown up at that time.

Mom and dad are gone now.  Their absence is felt daily, evidenced by the huge hole in my heart and tears that well up in my eyes every time I think about how much they are missed.  I am certain you can relate.  I was one of the lucky ones who grew up under the strict, but loving guidance of two traditionalists.

They taught me right from wrong, disciplined me when I strayed off course, enforced curfews, taught me to prepare for what was ahead, and instilled that “this too shall pass.”  They were even “realists” when it came to death.  My own mother, with her fantastic sense of humor, sent me a coffin brochure, asking me if she would look better in the copper rose or the warm mahogany!  It is good to laugh when you feel like crying.  There’s just no way to fill a hole THAT big, so I fill it in other ways.

I want to live my life in such a way that it touches others, serves others, relieves others.  I want to make a difference.  Isn’t that what we all want?  All we need is a little tenacity and courage to do it.  Encouraging others to love and honor does not end with death.  If anything, it gets magnified.  Since they were proud of you (and vice versa) in life, shouldn’t that continue even after they’ve passed?  Imagine living your life in such a manner, that you not only make yourself proud, but your departed loved ones too.

So too, I guide my clients through the process of dealing with their parents’ estates.  Whatever decisions you make, make them in such a way that pleases you and would honor them too.  Turning the other cheek is far  from easy, but often necessary.

Corny?  20th century?  Something out of “Leave it to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best?”  You bet!

And I’m darn proud of that too!

©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

Things We Find Left Behind

Treasure is in the eye of the beholder.  What one person holds dear, another wants nothing to do with.  This is true between elderly parents and their middle-aged children, and even grandchildren.  The Depression Era generation doesn’t let go of much.  They take great pride in their possessions, especially the ladies with their ornate silver plate pieces, painted china, and etched crystal that they cherished in another time and place.

We find a ton of handwritten notes intended for those left behind.  We find them tucked inside vases, taped to the back of china or paintings, taped under sculptures and figurines.  We find loose notes in desk drawers.  Sometimes, we even find the notes laying right where the author left them before being struck with infirmity or death.

These notes are meant to guide the loved ones after their death and they often include a myriad of information: the history behind the item, the name of the person they are leaving it to, and my personal favorite … what they think it is worth.  Many of these notes have yellowed with age and some are barely decipherable.  To complicate the matter, this particular generation has a tendency to change their minds frequently, often creating multiple notes with mixed messages (probably depending on who ticked them off most recently – according to the children who read the notes).  It is also possible they may forget and start all over.

Here is an example of one I just found:

Dated 1977

“In my antique chest, with the items I intend to give to Susan and Ralph.  Top shelf – “Boy and two goats” Royal Copenhagen figurine and female Hummel. – $2,000 value

Second shelf – Royal Doulton Toby mugs and Hummel plates – $1,800 value

Third shelf – Carlsbad, Austria dish and crystal duck and cat – $300 value

To Robert and Sylvia – In the hutch – the smaller Hummel figurines, Venetian glass fish, crystal candle holder and small Royal Doulton figurine. – $1,500 value”

The list is quite extensive and goes on for a long time.  Here’s what we need to know from this story:

  1. These items were never distributed.
  2. They were never distributed because no one wanted them.
  3. They ended up in my hands to sell for the family and they will split the proceeds.

Do notes help?  I think sometimes they do, especially when they offer personal history and IF you want to keep these items.  Notes can also be removed or taken by unscrupulous heirs-to-be, and often we find more than one version of their notes, which claim different people can have the same item.

How do you handle that one?  You write a formal addendum or document to place with your Will or Trust, and make sure there is only one copy, not multiples.  Ask your attorney how to do this.  Better yet, consider giving it away or selling these items, if the children don’t want them, before any of this takes place.

From my experience, many times the intentions of these notes are never carried out.

You can have the best intentions but if they are not carried through, it’s a moot point.

If you want someone to have somethings special of yours, give it to them while you are still able to do so.

Somewhere along the line, we have to break the habit of waiting until someone is “gone” to deal with all of this.  Granted some people prefer it that way, but more and more, we are seeing a trend of people giving away or selling their items before they pass, to make it easier on their loved ones left behind.

Personally, I think the best notes we can leave behind are thoughts of joy and love, and not necessarily who gets what and how much items are worth.  My favorite “possession” from my late mother is a letter she sent me stating how proud she is of me and how I have chosen to serve people, and may God bless me abundantly for doing so.  It is a deeply personal note and one that I will always cherish.  I would gladly let go of the material stuff I inherited from her, for this one note and memories of happy times.  That’s the REAL inheritance!

©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

Ashes to Ashes

It was one of those estates where you could cut the tension with a knife.  It wasn’t necessarily the fault of the last remaining parent who had just died.  It was her son, who was (to put it mildly) a massive pain in the butt.  He was spoiled, discourteous, disrespectful, and just not what you would consider a good person.  Those who know me would tell you I am an exceptional judge of character, whether it be from an intuition I seem to have inherited from mom, or just decades of observing and working with the good and bad side of human nature.  So, how bad could this son really be?

Well, let’s just say he demanded that I sell mom’s very personal items that we would normally dispose of, or wash and donate.  He dug into our donation boxes that had already been taped shut.  “I want every cent I can get out of this estate, so I want you to sell everything including her underwear.  Then I want you to low-ball the values so I don’t have to pay too much in taxes.”  Can you believe this?  Unfortunately, he was serious.

He was a man of significant financial means and was getting ready to inherit much more.  If selling mom’s undergarments wasn’t strange enough (which I refused to do because I believe in preserving the dignity of those no longer with us), we found cremated remains of his father, who had died two decades before, in a foyer cabinet.  As always, I handle remains with much care when we find them.

After consulting with the attorney handling the estate, it was determined that this son should take care of the remains.  When I handed the box of cremated remains to the son, he literally assumed a bowler’s position and threw the box, from several feet away, under the kitchen sink with the Windex and Comet.  Oh my gosh!  If I had not been there to see it, I never would have believed it.

I managed to get the son out of the estate and rescued the remains from the household chemicals.  After reporting this to the lawyer, we decided I should deliver “Mr. Smith’s” remains to the lawyer, who would try to find another family member to scatter the ashes as Mr. Smith wished.  It was the right thing to do.

I vaguely remember telling the law firm that if they could not find a family member, please let me know and I will scatter Mr. Smith.  I felt horrible that this man’s wishes were never fulfilled and that his remains were treated with such disrespect.  Years later, I received a call from the law firm asking me if the offer was still on the table to scatter Mr. Smith.  No family member would come and get him.  Struck speechless and trying to recall this estate from my long-ago memory, I simply replied that I would be happy to honor the last wishes of this man who clearly had no one who would do it for him.

The spoiled, uncaring family, who wasn’t willing to tend to his remains but more than willing to take his money, was a no-show, despite the best efforts of the law firm to come and get Mr. Smith.  It was then legally arranged for me to do this.  I saw to it that Mr. Smith got his final wish, praying over his ashes as a stranger, but one who clearly cared more for him than his own family.  I would want some kind soul to do the same for me.

For decades, his remains floated and were thrown around.  It was time they were released, and they were.  In a gorgeous area and on a perfect day, this stranger lifted a prayer for him, but silently cursed his son under my breath.  I know I should have been a better person than that, but seriously, how low can one go?

Sorry to quote Forrest Gump, but “Sometimes there just aren’t enough words.”

©2013 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 1, 2013 at 10:28 am  Comments (4)  
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