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.

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The Plan

Recently, my teenage daughter and I attended a women’s self-defense course.  It wasn’t your typical “stomp on the foot and run away” class; I knew it would be considerably more hands-on and intense.  My daughter dragged her feet, doing everything possible to delay getting in the car and going to the class with old mom.  She eventually went along, not fully understanding at her young age, the necessity of planning ahead.womenselfdefenseconcordcatrans

Once the class began, she sat completely engaged by the middle-aged police captain, who specialized in transporting the most heinous jailed criminals from state to state.  He was there, he said, to tell us what the criminals have shared with him over 30 years of serving, so we could learn to protect ourselves from them.  Much to my surprise, my daughter “volunteered” to be his victim for the evening.  There she was, upfront where all could see, feeling a little unsure of herself.  When the hands-on, self-defense demonstrations began, it was like watching a Kung Fu movie.  She instinctively knew what to do, and he taught us some very fine points we had never heard of.  Now, we have a plan.

Through the years, I had taught her what I knew about being aware, walking with confidence, and if she senses danger, run like heck.  I would sit her down and have discussions about how we worry about her, and that she must learn ahead of time to be independent.  The world can be a harsh and dark place, I said, but she didn’t want to hear it.  Long story short, the police captain congratulated me for teaching her well and not sheltering her.  Those who are sheltered, who have their heads in the sand and don’t reach out to gain knowledge, won’t make it in a moment of crisis.  The last thing I would ever want to do is send her out there UNPREPARED.

That got me thinking.  My work in the estate industry is really no different from this captain teaching people how to defend themselves.  He is simply teaching them to:

  • PLAN AHEAD, and
  • BE PREPARED.

I do the same thing with my work, experience, knowledge, and foresight about what will happen with families if there is no plan, no will or trust, no advanced directives/living will, no guidance for the children.

If we don’t have any self-defense training, we will be left vulnerable, feeling frightened, and having absolutely no direction if a serious crisis occurs.  We would surely kick ourselves if something did happen and we “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve.”  By then, it’s too late!

The same is true for an estate.  The family is left wide open to bad stuff and messy obstacles, because mom and dad didn’t plan ahead.  It throws everything into crisis mode; pain will only bring angst, regret, pain,and anger.  What a bad way to do things!  Formulate “THE PLAN” for you and your spouse, help your parents get their plan together, and discuss the plan with your own children and beneficiaries.

The problems always start when you are not looking, just like a distracted woman walking along a dark parking lot late at night, texting.  She becomes a target.  The way to NOT become a target in the estate world is to talk, TALK, TALK until all the details are ironed out ahead of time.

People email me from all over the world, saying, “Dad refuses to discuss it” or “Mom is going to do what Dad says.”

SOLUTION: Be sure they understand that if they insist on not making decisions themselves, decisions will be made for them, and those decisions will most likely NOT be decisions they would have made for themselves, placing extraordinary burdens on their children.

NOT discussing these issues is foolhardy.  Not planning ahead is almost unforgivable based on what I see each day.  This is their opportunity to tell you what they want and back it up with legal documents.

Refusing to discuss THE PLAN makes their own future uncertain and unpredictable; they open themselves to all kinds of potential events that could have negative impact on them and their care.

Just like women in self-defense class … with the right plan and preparation, you will not fail when “that” time comes!

©2015 The Estate Lady®

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

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

Published in: on February 5, 2015 at 10:25 am  Comments (1)  
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Great Expectations and the Blame Game

 
“Don’t blame others for disappointing you.  Blame yourself for expecting too much.”  – Unknown
 

Though it sounds harsh, we need to take a close look at our expectations and learn how to keep them in neutral.  We have turned into a society that expects the world to be at our beck and call.  We’re often entitled and don’t understand why we can’t have what we want … now!  Maybe this is one reason why people are pretty cranky these days; society is headed in an unpleasant direction.

I share some of my innermost thoughts to help keep expectations in check.  I’m seeing people, on a national level, being unreasonable when it comes to what possessions and estate items are selling for these days.  Although there are multiple reasons for this, we need to look longer and deeper into the reasons before blaming the estate sale professional, auctioneer, consignment company, etc.

Each time I hear someone say, “Why are things selling so low?  Why hasn’t the market come back yet?  I just don’t understand!” I am really surprised.  If you are watching the news, the internet, or any other global source, it should come as no surprise that things are a little crazy in the world.  Despite what mainstream media announces, the economy from our perspective (the sellers) is not improving.

It is currently, and will remain, a buyer’s market for quite some time.

Personal property is low, just like almost everything else.  Our expectations should remain fairly low until such a time that these items regain popularity or collect-ability, when and if that time comes back.

We, the sellers of personal property, know the market; one of our faults may be not explaining this completely to our clients.  We need to do our best to fully explain the poor economy, the flooding of the market from our older loved ones leaving us, the boomers downsizing, and our younger adults not wanting much stuff.  Flooding of the market is a concept easy to understand, once it is explained.

I have also attributed the client blame, which I hear from estate professionals, to several factors outside our realm of influence.

  1. People need money, or need to preserve the money they have.
  2. People are worried about the heavy costs of healthcare, especially long-term chronic care.  How long can they keep their parents’ care going if they outlive their money, which many are doing?
  3. People believe family lore about how valuable certain pieces were, only to be side-swiped with a realistic fair market value.  This derails them and rapidly deflates their bubble of expectation.  They thought these items would sell for a small fortune, and in most cases, they don’t.
  4. When times were good, our clients paid top dollar for nice, well-made furniture; often thousands of dollars were spent.  Retail no longer exists in our world, so forget about retail.  This furniture will not sell for 75% or even 50% of what you paid for it in most cases.  Prepare yourself for 25% to 30%.  If it sells for more, consider that a fortunate occurrence.
  5. When all of this knowledge converges and comes tumbling down, the property sellers often get slammed with anger and frustration.
  6. People need to understand that most possessions do not appreciate in value, even if they are special and expensive.
  7. Unfortunately, you may have paid too much for items in the past.  That cannot justify a high or unrealistic price when you sell them.

I really want my voice to reach both the consumers and my colleagues in the industry.  There are always two sides.  IF an estate professional does their due diligence in every respect, is it fair for the client to be harsh towards the professional, due to unrealistic expectations?  This is why communication is so important!

  • Look at the economy.
  • Look at other people going through tough times and how quickly styles, lifestyles, and people are changing.
  • Look at the market with a reasonable eye.
  • Keep your expectations in neutral.

We’re all in this boat together!

©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.

Dead Men Tell No Tales, But Their Possessions Do

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

In the land of the forgotten (attics, boxes in the back of the closet, locked trunks, hidden in barns or sheds, etc), we find things I can’t even talk about because I will get very sad.  I do my best to let go, or tuck these things away somewhere in a spare brain compartment, hoping not to think of them too often.

It is not unusual to find love letters, adoption papers for a child that never knew they were adopted, or evidence of an extramarital affair.  On occasion though, we find things like suicide notes, drug abuse issues, different levels of pornography … some so bizarre it challenges my understanding of humans.  In once case very long ago, we even found pedophile material up in the attic after he died.  These things had to be from the 1940s or 1950s, but it still leaves a mark of sadness upon one’s soul.

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

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

Some things need to be told to the family

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

Remember: The dead cannot defend themselves or their actions.

It is difficult to write these things.  I am choosing to use these challenging illustrations for the greater good, in hopes that we can learn to better prepare for our own estates.  Think about the many different facets of an estate and how complex it can be.  We must not only think about ourselves and what we desire, but we must think about those we leave behind and what they may find.

TIP OF THE WEEK: Be forewarned. Clean your home and clean your life!  Take it from one who knows.

©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 July 25, 2014 at 9:30 am  Comments (5)  
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Shake Off the “Woogies”

Lately I’ve been noticing more and more people with lower spirits than normal and what seems like ever-growing obstacles in their lives.  In my industry, I have colleagues in a wide variety of occupations and I will ask them how the economy is affecting them or their business.  Across the board, most everyone is not necessarily complaining, but weary and concerned.  Rightfully so.

I am no different, as things have an effect on me too.  That’s usually about the time I go to my garden to renew my spirit, give thanks for everything I have, talk to the veggies and to my late parents.  It usually makes me feel better.  No one really knows this, but sometimes I go to my garden just to let out a few tears and decompress.  It is a normal and healthy release for all the unknowns we are living through.  We need to place the emphasis on “living through,” meaning, this will pass and we will do our best to find ways to deal with it all.

When my daughter was a toddler, she often fell because she ran everywhere like the road runner.  There was no typical walking, just running.  She would start to whimper, which quickly escalated to a full-blown cry, from skinned knees or hands, or the jolt of suddenly becoming horizontal.  Wanting to raise an independent daughter, I would go to her side, comfort her with my words and a motherly hug or pat, then encourage her to get right back up and “shake off the woogies.”

I remember the phrase exactly; “you’re okay … look … you’re fine, just a little scratch, no problem.  You just have to get up and shake off the woogies.  Let’s get up and shake them off so they’ll go away.”  It worked like a charm.  She stood upright, shook her little body, and went on with life.

Don’t ask me where my brain picked up that silly phrase, but it made sense then and it makes sense now, to learn to shake off the woogies in our own lives.  The “woogies” mean different things to different people, but the one thing we need to remember is to always get up and do what we can to shake them off.  It’s not as simple as cleaning a toddler’s skinned knee anymore, as our maturity has brought far greater challenges, but if you are creative, you can find a way to shake them off.

I highly recommend growing a garden.

©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 December 10, 2013 at 12:16 pm  Comments (1)  
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“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

Show Me the Money

Yesterday I went to a local, but well-known, antique show held once a month.  I was there at 9:00 am to get in the door early enough to try and seek out treasures, but the strange thing was that no one was waiting in line.  At first, I thought maybe I had the date wrong.  I could not figure out why the attendance was so low.

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Granted, it was still early, and as the day went on, more people came but I didn’t see anyone buying much.

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I was lucky enough to find a motivated, successful dealer.  I use the word “successful” because he gets it … you must negotiate to sell items, unless you have very rare pieces that will command top dollar.  That is much harder to find than people realize.  I must have spent a couple of hours with this one dealer who let me “pick” through his tubs of scrap silver, jewelry, etc., and he gave me very fair prices, so I will be a repeat customer.

Picture this:  Dealers who have been there year after year with the same items, refusing to come down in price, even though the heyday for these items has come and gone.  The heyday may come back again one day, but not anytime soon.  Sadly, these dealers are so set in their ways; they will probably perish before they come down in price.  They have the mentality that they must double or triple (or more) their money and they won’t settle for anything less.  They are the dealers sitting in their booths, reading a book or newspaper, and not engaging in any human contact.  I almost took a photo of one dealer fast asleep!

When these dealers pass away, their kids will sell these items by sending them to an auction or through a liquidator.  They are holding out for a certain amount or perceived value that will not come to fruition.  Can you imagine traveling, packing, and unpacking these items for years and not selling all that much?  To each his own, but that seems like a waste of time to me.  I would be more motivated to move product.

Compare these dealers to the first dealer who cut me great deals and was willing to negotiate … Who do you think will find favor with more buyers?  Who will get more business because they negotiate, and are pleasant and easy to work with?

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Still, there are other dealers that are catching on and placing signs on their tables: “$1.00 Table,” “$5.00 Table,” “Nothing over $30.00 but ask for best price” tables, I even saw “FREE STUFF” boxes and they were still full!  These dealers are beginning to see the light.  It’s as if I wanted to jump on top of the table to shout, “ATTENTION EVERYONE!  We are battling weary economic times!  Come on now … this stuff is not going to bring in what it did in 2005!”

If you want buyers to show you the money, you have to meet them halfway.  It has, without question, become a buyers market.  For those with extra cash to spend, you can rack up some great deals, even investment quality pieces.

ESTATE LADY TIP:  Silver and gold are beginning to inch up again.  Buy what you can afford now.  It could go up rapidly depending on current global situations.

©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.

Published in: on September 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm  Comments (3)  
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When a Change in Health Prompts a Change in Your Will

An estimated 50% of us have a will or trust!  This is not good news!

Most people have not yet comprehended (or accepted) that dying without a will is a very costly mistake that will negatively impact all you leave behind.  It’s not just about the hassles and frustrations your heirs will go through potentially for years, but the expenses involved.  Ultimately, the state you live in will make decisions regarding your estate that will not distribute it the way you would have chosen.  In a nutshell, get it done now and leave a legacy of respect, instead of resentment.

For those who do have a will, it is important to consider any changes in mental and physical health, as these could greatly impact the outcome of someone’s wishes.  For example, let’s say mom’s healthcare power of attorney states that dad makes all decisions for mom in the event she is incapacitated, vegetative state, etc.  Suddenly dad is exhibiting odd behavior and is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which is progressing rapidly.  Can he now make sound decisions for mom?  Or, mom may not think about these details and this is the time for the children to talk with her about it.

So many Boomer children don’t know how to talk with their parents about these delicate issues, so permit me to offer some very sound advice.  It has to be done; it has to be discussed, as painful as it is.  If left “under the carpet,” no answers will be available to you should they become infirm or die.  Get the answers now, and do so with love and compassion.

Here’s one example: “Mom, we were thinking about yours and dad’s situation.  Now that dad is showing a decline in health, new decisions have to be made and documented so your wishes are fulfilled the way you would like them to be.  Dad is no longer capable of understanding complex issues, and you will need to choose a new healthcare power of attorney, so we can ensure the correct decisions will be made.  Can you please give this some thought?  Can we make an appointment with your attorney to have this changed soon?

This one example really gets you thinking.  Anytime there is a significant change in your life or a parent’s life, consider discussing with an elder law or estate planning attorney.  Being proactive isn’t always easy or pleasant, but it can head off gut-wrenching issues that will occur at some point, especially if you have elderly loved ones.  Making sound decisions in the midst of crisis is not the optimal time to think clearly.

Lead with love, and start communicating while you can!

©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

Getting Your Affairs in Order is Not Just for the Elderly

In years gone by, I can recall that the majority of my clients were the elderly looking for help downsizing.  Somewhere around 2003, that all changed and the calls coming into my office were coming from children looking for help handling their parents’ estates after they passed away or help cleaning out their estates.

Today, things have shifted once again.  While I still work with the elderly occasionally, and certainly work with the boomer children who are the majority of my business, I see an ever-increasing (and hair-raising) trend of hearing from younger children whose parents have died unexpectedly in their 50s and 60s.

We all seem to be programmed that infirmity and death only occur in old age.  Sadly, this is not the case.  Perhaps it is wishful thinking on our part, or not wanting to think about it at all.  But in my work, I am seeing more and more of my deceased clients are eerily close to my own age, and I never thought of myself as being old.  I find myself thinking about my clients, and what they are going through, because most of their parents don’t take the time to plan ahead, especially when they are still relatively young.  This throws the grieving children into more of a tail-spin because they may not have had “The Talk.”

Many children do not know what their parents’ final wishes are, nor how the estate is to be divided.  They don’t even know if the parents have a Will or Trust.  These are HUGE issues that weigh heavily on those left behind.

Estate Lady Tips:

  1. Don’t do that to your children or beneficiaries.  You are mortal and a plan has to be shared with loved ones.  While you may not want to discuss this, you will feel much better after you do, and your children will thank you for it.  They will be especially grateful when the time comes, realizing the care you took ahead of time to make their lives easier.  Make an appointment to have a Will/Trust drawn up this week.
  2. Don’t die in debt.  This is a horrid situation.  Suffice it to say you create a nightmare for those dealing with your estate.
  3. Ask for an addendum to your Will so you can assign who gets what.  Better yet, give it away while you are still living so there is less to fight about after you are gone.
  4. Start clearing out your home now, even if you are young.  Don’t let it accumulate or it will snowball on you.  gain control of the house (and the piles of stuff we all have) and start clearing out.  Once a month, drop off items to a charity, or arrange for them to come to the house for a pick up.  Have yard sales for a little extra spending money.  If you haven’t seen it or used it in a year, let it go.
  5. Talk to your spouse and children about what you want.  Both of my parents died without much warning.  It’s a good thing they told us what they wanted and had the legal documents to back up their wishes.  When the time came (and it did when I least expected it), I knew exactly what to do.  I can still hear mom telling me, “Dad and I don’t want you to go through any more than you have to, because you will be going through enough when the time comes.  We want to make this as easy as possible on you, and we have made these decisions ahead of time to remove additional stress placed on you.”  This was music to my ears, not fully understanding the massive impact until I had to make a life and death decision for one of them.  I still can’t believe how much love they had for us.

These are not easy things to do.  Doing them sooner, rather than later, will change the way you think about these issues and make it much easier for you and your family in the future.  Take it from one who sees this trouble everyday.

Resources from the Estate Lady:

©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

The Estate Medium

Give me a little while in an estate – any estate – and I will tell you more about that loved one’s life than most people who knew them.  Walking into an estate, sight unseen for the first time, can be compared to an artist starting on a new canvas.  We wipe the mental slate clean from the last estate and clear ourselves before going in to “receive” thoughts, feelings, and even a certain energy about the home and the people who lived there.  One can sense many things immediately, if they are open to it.

In my career, I have handled the estates of young and old alike: the mentally ill, the lost souls, those who end their own lives, the hoarders, the estranged, those with dementia, eating disorders, chronic disease, those who died rich, and those who died poor.  While these are all very different, I have come to the conclusion that in the end, we are all pretty much the same regardless of the situation that led to the eventual demise.

I went into an estate last week where someone ended their life.  This is not common, but I see it a few times each year.  The feeling is always the same once I have entered the home.  I walk in and instantly feel a wall of despair.  It is a profound sense of sadness.  As I walk through the home, I will see other signs that something wasn’t quite right; either the home is too clean (as in OCD clean) or I see hoarding tendencies.  Often scattered around in the strangest places, I will see liquor bottles coupled with a multitude of prescription bottles; you know what a dangerous combination this is.  I look at what their hobbies and interests were, which will reveal much about them.  And sometimes I can see conflict in their lives just by observing what was in their home.  Was it mental illness, untreated depression, drugs, etc?  We’ll never know.  It is not unusual to sense that at one time, they were a very bright light.

If we are in the home for any length of time, would you believe me if I told you that my staff and I begin to cry, or that we are filled with sorrow we don’t understand?  It’s as if we can feel what they felt.  We can feel that they were “stuck” in a dark place even though they had much to offer.  A very sad situation indeed.  We always end up praying for that person (for everyone, really), lifting lovely thoughts and words hoping that they have found peace at last, and that we are there to help the family begin to heal by handling the estate for them.

On the flip side, we can also sense lives and homes that are buoyant, colorful, joyful, and productive.  These homes are filled with light, usually lovers of animals and nature, and hobbies such as volunteering, bird watching, and gardening.  In these homes, we usually just feel a stillness that has no heaviness to it.  And in some cases, we start singing and are lighthearted while working in the estate.  We don’t always understand why the environment affects us and our feelings.

Two completely different experiences, and everything you can imagine in between.

I believe there’s a way we can incorporate a conscious change into our lives and homes, so we can positively shift the energy we carry with us, for it remains long after we are gone, and deeply affects our loved ones left behind.

©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