What’s in Your Plan?

We all know we need to plan ahead for a time when we won’t be able to speak for ourselves.  A crisis can occur at any time, regardless of age or current health.  Sadly, it can happen in the blink of an eye.  In my career of handling estates, I have seen young clients pass away suddenly, as well as crisis situations occur with our elderly loved ones who fall, have a stroke, or can no longer care for themselves.  So much can happen; if we are honest, we simply choose not to seriously think about these issues until they are upon us.  Sometimes, that is too late.

When your time comes to an end. A scroll of a Last Will & Testament, tied with a black ribbon on a mahogany desk, with pocket watch set to midnight: the end of time.

Have you thought ahead to make a plan for your cherished possessions, or at least gift them prior to passing away?  I encourage everyone to make a plan and put it in a legal document.  Write an addendum to your Will, or place certain items in a Trust if they are special to you.  An estate planning attorney can help you put these documents together fairly quickly.  Put these documents in a safe place, discussing the contents with the executor.  The attorney will keep a copy.  Let a close, trusted friend know what you are doing and where the originals are kept.

Things to think about:

  • Plan for special possessions.  It is not realistic to think our kids will want all of our possessions.  First, find out what they would like to have, then have those items appraised for fair market value.  Create a “wish list” and keep it equitable; leave guidance on who gets what.  It’s all spelled out in my book, “The Boomer Burden”, available at online booksellers.
  • Plan for your animals should you pre-decease them.  We adore our furry and feathered family but rarely do we make a plan for them.  This leaves them in limbo.  It’s not fair to them or the loved ones left behind to make painful decisions.
  • Consider gifting while living.  This minimizes future feuding and cuts down on challenging issues when the children/heirs have to divide the estate.  Seeing the joy on the recipient’s face is an added bonus!
  • Make sure someone knows the location of all private files, passwords, keys, titles, deeds, safe deposit boxes, safe combination.  This information should be entrusted to your executor (someone you trust implicitly).  Note: Multiple executors can often mean more complications and differences of opinions!

I have clients right now who put together a “master binder” of all the things we are discussing here, including written directions on where private documents can be found, such as social security card, Medicare information, life insurance policy, original Will/Trust, etc.  They prepaid their own funerals.  They asked me to write current appraisals for their furnishings, collectibles, and jewelry, and have made copies for each child.  They were even nice enough to direct their children to me when they pass away, to handle the contents of their home, since all their heirs are long distance.  Quite literally, they left a “Guidance System” for their children.  How wonderful!

Think ahead to special possessions you have received and collected over your life.  While no one can make plans for everything in their home, make plans for these valuable items now so no one can feud over them later.  When the decision is made ahead of time, you’ve simplified the life of your executor.

©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.

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Dangers of Choosing a Company Based on Their Low Commission

Everyone loves to save money, but cutting corners on some services is just not advisable.  One such service is when you hire a professional estate liquidator due to the relocation of a parent, downsizing, or the loss of a loved one.

The emphasis here is on the word professional.    The estate sale professional is one who has dedicated much time, care, concern, diligence, devotion, education, research, plus so much more to attain the skills required to conduct a successful estate sale for their clients.  This professional works countless hours and endures many sleepless nights for their clients, constantly learning and navigating an ever-changing industry and dealing with an increasingly difficult public of buyers.

Conducting an estate sale is not just about organizing and displaying, nor as easy as it appears.  Genuine professionals do it well and make it look easy, even though it is really very hard.  They truly earn their commission because of all they know how to do, including how to maximize sale proceeds.

Saving those few dollars selecting the wrong company could end up costing you!

Consumers Beware

This industry is inundated with pop-up or fly-by-night companies that appear out of nowhere.  While there are exceptions to every rule, we see the following often:

  • Many of them have little to no industry training, skills, or understanding of the scope of the work that lies ahead of them.
  • They often know little about today’s market and what items will sell for.
  • They often sell at very low prices and then depart.
  • Some don’t even price items or research the value of higher-end pieces.
  • Sometimes they leave a mess behind for the client to pick up and handle.
  • The sale proceeds are often quite low, because they didn’t make the effort to make the sale as successful as possible.
  • They may not pay the client in a pre-determined time frame or offer an accounting of what was sold.
  • To get the contract signed, they undercut with a low commission, claiming they will do the same things as their professional competitors, but will they?

PLEASE do not hire a company based on commission alone.  Find out what the commission includes, research the company, and make your decision based on sound information and facts.

If the commission is very low, one must ask how they can afford the proper resources: enough staff to organize/display/watch the crowd effectively, security to minimize theft, advertising, appropriate prices, proper signage, social media, and more.

Lower commission can also bring lower effort.  Unless it is a very simple estate sale, what normally suffers is quality:

  • Quality of care
  • Quality of service
  • Quality in research
  • Quality in diligent preparation

These qualities are attributes of a professional, not a bargain-basement business.

KNOW WHO YOU ARE HIRING!  The time it takes to find those true professionals is time well spent.

©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 Blockade

Obstacles are everywhere in life:

  • The teenager left a mound of clothes to step over
  • You’re stuck in morning traffic
  • Everyone’s in the kitchen at the same time
  • You reach the grocery checkout and there’s long lines

Think about how much time is spent waiting to either go around or jump over obstacles and you’ll see it’s an astounding amount of time we can never regain.

In one aspect of life, I see obstacles where they should not be.  In my estates, I work closely with boomer children to guide them in making solid decisions regarding their parents’ possessions:

  • what should be sold
  • how it should be sold
  • how to maximize the sale
  • options and resources

My work also places me in the nitty-gritty of “family affairs”, many situations that are not for the faint of heart.  In the last few years, I am seeing siblings doing things against each other more than ever before, and I call it The Blockade.

A good example of The Blockade is when one sibling moves in with a parent, either to help with their needs or because the sibling is financially strapped and needs a place to live.  Often, it is both.  This sibling is usually helpful with the parent and keeps the home clean, helps cook, cares for mom, etc.  The problem takes place after mom is placed in another residence like assisted living or passes away.  Getting that sibling to move out of the family home can take an act of God.  Literally.

I see these children (not all, but many of them) not want to budge and often force the hand of the executor.  Sometimes they feel justified because they did so much work and offered care for the parent.  I understand that.  However the entitlement mentality does not belong here at this place and time, because mom’s will often stipulates the home is to be sold and possessions divided.

Rarely is this sibling the executor or legal decision maker.  Since I work with the legal decision maker, I get a front row seat to this event.  Sad to watch!  The sibling living in the home will use it as a storage facility, settling in for the long run and making life very hard on the other siblings and especially the executor.  Resentment grows; you can figure out the remainder of the story.

I have seen these refusing-to-budge siblings throw fits, threaten, etc.  The bottom line is if the legal documents are prepared ahead of time and the instructions are clear that the home is to be sold and divided among the heirs, that is what must be carried out.

It is not okay to be The Blockade.  I can see both sides and I understand the emotional ties to a home and possessions can be very strong.  But nothing ever stays the same.  Everything transitions to some other place.  Life is ever-changing.  Sometimes things cannot remain the same, even if we want them to.

This is about the parent’s wishes and fulfilling them for ALL involved!

I recently had the pleasure of working with an executor who had to deal with this situation.  He did not want to hurt his sibling.  He had already been incredibly patient.  His situation was fairly simple as the will specified what had to be done.  I encouraged him to:

  1. Document correspondence to that sibling, including emails and certified letters, stressing mom’s will be followed.
  2. Offer the sibling a fair amount of time to vacate and give a date when they will need to be moved out to a new home.  (This sibling had been dragging their feet for a year now.)  They might say they have no money and no place to live, but they have to put forth effort and do what is legally and morally right.  If they are in ill-health, try to help them with local resources.
  3. Enlist the advice of an attorney if you cannot resolve this issue on your own.  No one wants to do this, but in some cases, you may have to meet one to find out the best course of action because of all the problems arising from The Blockade.  Perhaps it can be resolved peacefully, which is optimal for everyone.
  4. Hire a realtor.
  5. Be present, or have a representative present, when they do move out.  In this case, items were disappearing daily which is certainly not fair to the other siblings.  Have the locks changed immediately after the sibling leaves.
  6. Hire an estate sale professional immediately after they have moved out to sell the contents of the home.  www.ASELonline.com
  7. Everyone move forward with their lives.  Try your best to keep the peace.

Life is hard enough without added obstacles.  Do your best to never become one.  If you know someone who is currently The Blockade, talk to them about how their actions are impacting others.  The goal is to be part of the resolution, not part of the problem.

©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.

 

Unthinkable, Unethical, Unlawful ~ Good Grief!

Most professionals that work within the estate industry hear and see things that defy logic and make our hair stand straight on end.  This story is one of them.

Imagine your sibling is very ill, in the process of passing away in hospice.  Most of us would be doing all we can for our family, the children, the spouse, being present and offering support in any way to ease the pain they are going through.  Most of us would also be spending those last precious moments together with the loved sibling.  That is what family is for.

But some families think of other things that wouldn’t even enter into our minds.  While the ill sibling is unresponsive in a coma, a sibling helps themselves to not only their jewelry and silver, but their credit cards taken straight from their purse.  Worse, yet, they USED the credit cards throughout the last week of the sibling’s life and even after they had passed away.  Does anyone out there have the right words to describe this, because I am so appalled, I cannot print what I would really like to say?

I believe it is unlawful to use someone else’s credit cards and certainly unlawful after their death, if you are not named on the account.  Everything can be tracked these days.  They always find the culprit right down to getting receipts, video recorded at the store, etc.  So I ask a question that my mind is not capable of understanding:  WHY would anyone do this when life is hanging by a thread and all they can think of is stuff?  Unethical, YES.  Unthinkable, YES.  I cannot even wrap my head around it.

Shoes, purses, jewelry, and all the silver or gold in the world doesn’t mean a thing when a loved one dies.  It doesn’t mean a thing when we die.  They are just pretty things that we use for awhile.  They take up space and take money out of our accounts.  But seriously?  On a deathbed?

What is becoming of our world?  Are there people out there so devoid of compassion or kindness that they fill their void doing things that are unthinkable?  I’ve seen cases like this in the past, but they happen more frequently and it is most disconcerting to witness.

Yet another reason to have a plan in place, tell those closest to you what you want, and back it up with legal documents.  If there are those you don’t trust, let those that you do trust know this too.

Maybe the best investment we can make is a safe in our homes, offering the combination to only your executor or in sealed documents to be opened upon your passing.  Gift items while you are still living.  Have your power of attorney gather all personal possessions (such as your wallet) and secure them until such a time as legal affairs are sorted out.

I’m still shaking my head in disbelief!

©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 April 21, 2016 at 9:59 am  Comments (4)  
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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

“Help, I’m Lost!”

You have come to the inevitable crossroads of making difficult decisions about assisted living or long-term care for your loved one, and the emotional pressure and exhaustion are enormous.  The pressure rests on you to find the best resources to help and carry out a smooth transition.  You are also tending to a myriad of daily needs, like phone calls, medicine, doctor’s appointments, dealing with family members, and much more.  No wonder you have a tendency to lose yourself, or at least, feel lost.  You may even feel at the brink of snapping emotionally.

Even if your loved one refuses to go along with the best possible choices you make, you have to make the best choice for them and then live with that choice.  Often, guilt accompanies your decisions, no matter how much effort and love you put in to the process.  Then, family members will have differing opinions, which further adds to the stress, confusion, and frustration.

If your loved one has died, leaving you to handle their estate, you enter what many of my clients call “Prozac time.”  Though they say that with a bit of humor, their body language confirms the truth they feel.  They walk into the family home for the first time and their brain betrays them with a whirlwind of thoughts.

  • Where do I begin?  There’s so much stuff!
  • What was she thinking by keeping all this stuff?
  • What do we do with it all?
  • Is there anything of real value here?
  • Will we argue over it all?
  • Should we sell, donate, keep?
  • What if I just move it to storage and deal with it later?

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are answers to all these questions and solutions for you by hiring the right professionals in the estate industry.  Make sure all the professionals you think about hiring have appropriate experience, credentials, and training to give the best possible assistance to your family.  These professionals are valuable resources who can relieve so much concern and solve so many problems.

Exercise caution if you find someone who “dabbles” in estate sales or any other occupation.  They may appear “more cost-effective” but in the end, you will pay a heavy price.

Dabbling is dangerous!  You need a PRO!

Get the best professionals and the process will flow smoothly.  You may be tempted to “do it yourself” but these experts can solve more issues effectively because they have the resources and experience that you don’t have.  Be sure to ask questions, and seek out the few professionals that you trust.  The really good ones are worth their weight in gold!

Take comfort in the fact that this is a season of your life which will get better.  Keep your sights on the positive end result.  Be sure to ask for help from close friends, trusted siblings, and counselors to keep you emotionally on track and healthy.  Don’t forget to take care of yourself too.

To locate an estate sales professional in your area, go to www.ASELonline.com and click on the top tab “For Consumers.”  You’ll find a searchable database of professionals, and many other resources to help 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.

How Will People Remember You?

When it comes to making arrangements for estate distribution upon one’s death, too many of us are seized with a dramatic disease called procrastination (with a touch of denial).  We will all pass away one day; it’s a certainty.  But many do nothing about it while they are still very much alive.  They think in terms of “if” I die, not “when” I die.  Denial makes them procrastinate on very important personal decisions.  Should a crisis occur, are you and your loved ones prepared at all?

Procrastination and denial have a remedy called “AWARE.”

A stand for Anguish, Anxiety, even Anger

When a loved one dies and leaves no instructions on what to do with his/her estate and personal possessions, loved ones left behind become angry and resentful at having to mentally and physically handle another person’s lifetime accumulation, especially if nothing was done ahead to prepare and discuss.  The frustration, anxiety, and guilt are evident in their voices when they call me to help them dispose of the household possessions.

Alleviate this emotional strain by spending a small amount of time now, when you are mentally and physically able to arrange your affairs yourself.  A serious crisis rarely gives you any warning.

W stands for Will/Trust

Don’t leave life without one of these.  Your Last Will and Testament/Trust is the wisest document you can possess.  Have an attorney help you; template forms may not hold up in the statutory process for distributing assets.  Not just for those of wealth, a will is important for every well-prepared individual.  You need a will to insure you have designated the rightful beneficiaries and will eliminate other potential problems.

Other estate planning documents to discuss with an attorney include a Durable Power of Attorney, a Healthcare Power of Attorney, and a Declaration of Desire for a Natural Death, better known as a Living Will.  The investment of time and money here is well worth it, compared to the anguish you may cause your family and friends without these documents.

A stands for Action

Once you have your will in hand, develop a written plan that lists important people who could help your family or friends after your death.  Research and record those you consider to be trusted resources and experts, including their name, address, contact information, and explanation of what they do.  Maintain this plan of action with your will, so your family can find this upon your death.

These resources could include your attorney, financial planner, banker, real estate appraiser, personal property appraiser, estate sale professional, realtor, and other experts you trust to consult about a collection you may have (stamps, guns, books, coins, art).  Wisely include in your written plan the location of your address book, so out-of-town family and friends can be notified of your death.  Always make sure someone you really trust has passwords and keys to your computer, safe, and home.

R stands for Responsibility and Respect

Responsibility is one of the most lasting characteristics you can leave a family member or friend who must close out your affairs after your death.  When you have taken personal responsibility to handle your estate ahead of time, you are actually leaving a legacy of kindness and respect for those who must settle your affairs.  They will appreciate it and learn by example.

 E stands for Educate

Educate yourself by taking a personal inventory and appraisal of your personal property and how you want it distributed.  Educate others as to what is valuable to you and find out what may be valuable to them.  For example, your daughter might value a chipped ceramic plate that was the platter for family birthday cakes — no monetary value but heaping sentimental value for her.  Give away as much in life as you feel comfortable in giving.

Be AWARE of how you want people to remember you when you are no longer here to tell them yourself!

©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.

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.

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.