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.

Advertisements

Procrastination is Risky!

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

~ A Chinese proverb

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened with Mary’s estate?

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

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

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

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

©2015 The Estate Lady®

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

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

6 Big Mistakes People Make with Personal Property

Personal property and heirlooms — we spend a lifetime accumulating them, inheriting them, caring for them, collecting them, and talking about them.  But we rarely know the values and we rarely make a plan for what happens to our personal property.

Here’s my list of the biggest mistakes.  Hopefully, you don’t see yourself in this list.

1.  Parents don’t share final wishes with their children.  They don’t share vital documents, especially the will/trust, or at least tell the children where they are located.

Children are then left to guess the parent’s wishes, which is a very bad thing.  Children live with guilt for the remainder of their lives, wondering if their “guess” was what mom and dad would have wanted.  What a heavy load to carry!

2.  Parents don’t make a plan for personal property.  They don’t create a master list, or ask what the heirs would like to have.  They definitely don’t gift any of their possessions while they are still alive.

3.  Parents know that death and infirmity will certainly come, but they do nothing to anticipate or minimize fighting after they are gone.

4.  Children have opposite opinions because the parents didn’t tell their wishes to the children.  This starts fights and feuds that can last for the remainder of their lives.

5.  Children are hasty with parents’ possessions.  Heirlooms with significant value can end up in a dumpster or yard sale.  They decline to hire a professional to ascertain what’s valuable before distribution and disposal.

6.  Children have a tendency to give away, throw away, or donate before they know the worth of those items.  Be leary of unscrupulous people who ask for a “memento” and go for the most valuable item, which you may or may not have valuated.

Did you see yourself in this list?  If so, now is the time to take action and resolve these issues.  You don’t want to become one of The Estate Lady’s sad stories!

©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 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

 

 

5 Regrets People Make on Their Deathbed

NOT ONE OF THEM HAS TO DO WITH STUFF!

“Nurse Reveals the Top 5 Regrets People Make on Their Deathbed” http://topinfopost.com/2014/05/12/top-5-regrets-people-make-on-their-deathbed

In the end, it comes down to you preparing to meet your Maker.  I have felt incredibly blessed and humbled after watching a loved one die.  It is a process of making peace with everything and everyone, before shutting down the shell that carried us so well through life.  It is obvious to me that the farthest thing from their minds were their prized, earthly possessions.  It is those of us who are left behind that struggle with the stuff, often transferring our affection for the person to their sentimental object(s).  Sometimes, we might even think, “Mom or dad would never forgive me if I gave that away,” or “Grandma would be rolling in her grave if I didn’t keep this.”

I don’t think that’s the case. At all.

I think what we may find in the above article is a slice of human clarity.  It’s a glimpse into the world of someone who is getting ready to leave it.  This glimpse focuses on human interaction and the many decisions we made along the way, and the things we could have/should have done differently.  I think it offers the reader food for thought about our very real, very human interactions, and how we could have a better life or how we could offer a better life for others.

In the end, regrets are not what you take with you.  Nor will you take your money, your possessions or collectibles or cars.  All you take is what you entered the world with, plus all the love you accrued along the way.

The only thing we should be concerned with is leaving a legacy that would make those who know and love us, know and love us more.  Go change your world!

©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

“Promise Me …”

(A powerful blog for those with parents who have not yet planned ahead)

An elderly mother says to her son, “Promise me you will never put me in a nursing home.  It’s so depressing.  Promise me you will never do that.”

The middle-aged son says:

Promise me that you will make plans now, so I won’t have to later under duress.

Promise me that we will discuss this now, instead of at a time when it is either too late, or I will have to make excruciating decisions in a crisis mode.

Promise me that you will give this much thought.

Promise me that you will love us both enough to do this now, so I know YOUR wishes and they can be fulfilled as closely as possible.  Research assisted living facilities.  Research home health organizations.  Have a plan in place we can both use.

Share your plan WITH me.

Promise me all of these things, so I can live the remainder of my life, knowing I honored you the best way that I could, knowing we had full and open communications, knowing we talked about the “what if’s.”

And lastly, promise me that you will never ask me again to promise you what you just asked of me.  For without any direction or guidance from you, I will be guessing, and guessing is not what you want me to do with your life hanging in the balance.  I don’t want to guess either, wondering if I’ve made the right decisions.

Guessing will only lay guilt at my feet and weigh heavily upon my shoulders.

If/when a crisis occurs, I will not be thinking straight.  I will not be myself.  I will not fully understand the ramifications of my decisions.  I will be stunned and emotional.  I will look and act like a zombie going through the motions.  I will be confused and overwhelmed by medical staff saying things I don’t understand, and family members questioning my every move.  Promise me you won’t do that to me.

By thinking about this now and deciding on what YOU want, we can put a plan together so there is no guessing.  Saying “I love you” isn’t enough sometimes.  Doing all of these things and preparing for that day ahead of time is a gift of pure love.

I will cherish and honor you for this gift, both now, as well as in my future.  Thank you for protecting my soul, mom, dad.  Thank you for loving me that much!

©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 April 22, 2014 at 9:17 am  Comments (10)  
Tags: , , , ,

5 Minutes

In the span of a 24 hour day, what’s 5 minutes?  It’s grabbing a quick snack before you head out the door, feeding your cat, texting your best friend, or checking your email.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s certainly not much.  Our lives are so busy; we barely notice.  But often, they are full of things that are mundane and perhaps not all that important; they simply keep us busy.  That 5 minutes comes and goes without a care, never to be experienced again in quite the same way.

To some people, 5 minutes is an eternity:  a soldier who sees their life flash before their eyes, a lady waiting to find out if she’s pregnant, a young child waiting for Christmas morning, or holding a loved one’s hand while they’re dying.

If you were given 5 minutes to do, or re-do, anything you wanted to, any time, anywhere, or any place, what would you do and would you do anything differently?

If I had 5 minutes, just 5 measly minutes, for a chance to do anything I wanted, I would choose to visit with my mother again.  Throughout the course of our lives, she and I talked a lot about a lot.  I was the last person to talk with her before she passed suddenly, and our parting words to each other, without knowing she was going to die, were simply “I love you.”  But if I had that wish and just 5 minutes more, I would have told her exactly what she meant to me, how blessed I was to have known her and have her as my mother, and that I would do everything I could to live by her kind and caring example.  Everyone loved Anne.  She was one of the nicest people on the planet and my world lost its color the day she passed.

I would do all of this, if I had 5 minutes more with her … complete with a long and loving hug.  But I don’t have any minutes with her anymore.

What’s 5 minutes to you?

Is there someone in your life right now where 5 minutes (just 5 tiny minutes) could heal your life and theirs?  Take the 5 minutes I no longer have and do something really good with it.

It is a gift!

©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

“Dear Dad”

Part 1

There comes a time in everyone’s lives where you either face the demon or you don’t.  Not one to shy away from much, including a nasty demon who was helping himself to my father, something simply had to be done.

I knew long before anyone else in the family that dad was exhibiting signs of dementia.  When I brought it up to my mom and sibling back in 2006, they thought I was nuts … only, I wasn’t.  It was the one time I wished I was wrong.  It wasn’t long before dad knew something was wrong too.  One day he confided in me that he was worried because his once sharp memory was “fading fast and he couldn’t remember things anymore.”

I encouraged dad to see his family doctor for testing, but he never did or he cancelled appointments.  Mom didn’t push the issue, despite my sweet badgering, because as I was to learn later on, she was afraid.  So afraid to uncover the truth that it seemed to paralyze her, and she was a strong woman.

The letter I will share with you is a very personal demonstration of love between my father and myself, and how I saw things as they were rudely unfolding and trying to blacken our world.  Not knowing what to do, or even how to begin doing it, I looked deep inside to find the right kind of solution because I felt damn helpless.  All my life I could solve any problem, help anyone, come up with solutions.  But I couldn’t beat this … not with all the tenacity in the world!

Of everything that I had heard about dementia, how could anything ever be right again?  It was that quiet inner voice that won my attention and I tried to reach my father through the love I had for him.  “Love conquers all,” they say, and if that is true, my words would touch my father’s soul.  That is exactly what I intended.  If I couldn’t help him fight and win, the least I could do was offer love and hold him up.

I just found this special letter in a box among my mother’s “keepsakes” from her estate; she kept it for a reason.  If you know anyone who can benefit from it, please pass it along, because it worked.  It reached both mom and dad and we all faced this demon together.  Being the front guy facing this enemy is the single, most frightening experience of my life.  There was no sword big enough, nor shield large enough to protect from its talons.  But there is always love …

Part 2 … coming next week

©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

Guilt – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Each day, I work closely with heirs attempting to deal with what their parents have left behind.  Some parents leave more than others, and some downsize long before their time comes.  Some are so attached to their possessions, they leave it all for their children to contend with.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear they use their possessions as an anchor to this world, not fully understanding that when you are called to enter the heavenly gates, you can’t take a thing with you.  You leave this earth much as you entered it, and we didn’t bring one material possession when we arrived.

On a daily basis, I hear middle-aged children tell me their mother “would kill them” if they sold or gave her possessions away, or that mom “always told me how valuable it was and to never sell it,” or that “I had to pass this down to the kids or she’d roll in her grave.”  They openly share with me that mother always stressed the importance of these things and they now feel badly, wanting to sell them.

Friends, this is what I call strategically applied guilt and I am offering you some helpful advice here with the hopes that you will read it, re-read it, and pass it along to those who need to read it!

  1. Every “thing” has a season.  That season of cherishing that item was during your mom’s lifetime, not necessarily yours.  Free yourself and make peace with this.
  2. You may need permission to let it go.  Here it is: It’s OK to let go and let someone else derive pleasure from it. There’s no sense in the item collecting dust, being stacked in your attic, or wrapped up in old newspaper in a box where it has remained since 1977.  Let it go!
  3. No, the kids and grandkids really don’t want it, most of the time.  Even if you have an idea in your head that they will want it in the future, most of the time they don’t.  Ask them what they would like to keep now.  If it’s not on their list, don’t force them to take it.  All you are doing is “passing the buck” to the younger generation that has no tolerance for “stuff.”  They prefer cash.
  4. Why would you clutter up your house with someone else’s stuff?  It’s not fair to you, your spouse, your children.  Make a pact with yourself that you will sort through it in a timely manner … not years, but weeks.  Hire an appraiser to uncover what has value so you can make sound decisions.  Get the kids on board and set dates for them to come get what they want.  If it is unclaimed, give it to a charity of choice; let it go to someone who will appreciate it.  It really is simple — you just have to make up your mind to do it, and forgive yourself for anything you think you are doing incorrectly.  Always look forward.
  5. I’m sure they don’t care about their material possessions in heaven.  Agree?
  6. Relieve yourself and your children of guilt.  Here’s how …

My mom gave me a great gift before she died (her death was not expected).  She took me to the guest room closet which had several packing boxes stacked.  She told me those boxes were filled with family photos.  “When I die, Julie, just throw them away because they are photos of people I don’t even know; I will not give you the guilt my mother put on me.”

When mom died unexpectedly and I was in her home cleaning it out, I walked up to that closet and replayed that scene in my mind.  I actually laughed out loud when I reached for the boxes, telling my brother what mom had told me.  Even though we went through the boxes, she was right and I had no trouble letting go.  I was incredibly grateful my mother gave me that “gift” and relieved me of that burden.  That’s love!

It’s OK to feel a pang of uncertainty.  It’s not OK to drag this stuff with you through life, allowing it to drag you down with it.  It’s not right to place it all on your children.  Learn from this painful experience.

©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.

Ms. Faye

As with most of my clients, I have a tendency to get attached.  At 94, she carried herself in a very youthful manner and looked more like a 60-year-old with manicured nails, perfectly applied makeup and gorgeous white hair that was set every few days.

She and I had grown close while working together on her downsizing move to a retirement/continuing care community.  Ms. Faye turned out to be one of my biggest supporters, always making an appearance at one of my local speeches and having photos taken with me for her memory book.  She had outlived everyone, including a beloved husband that she often reminisced about, but she was determined to enjoy life solo.

Uncharacteristic for a woman of her era, she made the decision to sell her estate jewelry and travel extensively, because in her words, “When you’re gone, you’re gone.”

Unusual as she was bustling with energy and always had a smile on her face, I asked her one day over lunch what her secret was.  She paused for a moment to reflect and suddenly a wide smile, that matched her glowing complexion, emerged on her face.  “It’s really very simple.  Always look up and never look down.  And always choose close friends that are younger than you because they will keep you young in spirit — the older ones die and leave you.”

There it was in a nutshell — life according to Ms. Faye.  She said it with gusto through her red Estee Lauder lips.  It’s difficult to forget someone like Ms. Faye.  Her words were so simple but powerful, and were her secret to longevity.

Not long after our lunch together, Ms. Faye died quietly and unexpectedly during the night.  While she is no longer here, I still smile every time I think about her.  I think of this older woman who had lived through and seen so much, and I remember her words, “Always look up and never look down.”

I think it is important to spread stories as upbeat as this, especially when the news all around us seems all doom and gloom.  Some would think it is sad that she died, but she left this earth doing what she wanted, whenever she wanted, and how she wanted it.  In my eyes, not a bad passing at all.  Thanks for the smiles and new mantra, Ms. Faye.

Rest in heavenly peace.

©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