“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.

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Unforgettable Note We Found in an Estate

“Please Take Care of This for Me”

Borrowed from Robert N. Test, American poet

“The day will come when my body will be determined by doctors to be without life.  When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine.  And don’t call it my deathbed.  Call it my Bed of Life, and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby’s face, or the love in the eyes of a significant other.

Give my heart to the person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.

Give my blood to a teenager who was pulled from the wreckage of a car, so he might live to see his grandchildren play.

Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist.

Take my bones, every nerve and muscle, to find a way to make a crippled child walk.

Explore every corner of my brain.  Take my cells if necessary, and make them grow, so one day a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her window.

Burn what is left and scatter my ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.

If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses, and all prejudice against my fellow man.

Give my sins to the devil; give my soul to God.

If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs it.

If you do all that I have asked, I will live forever.”

©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 August 5, 2015 at 10:21 am  Comments (3)  
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5 Promises to Yourself This Summer

These days, it appears increasingly difficult to stay on the level emotionally.  So much comes at us that it’s depressing to turn on the TV.  To combat this heaviness that many feel, I have 5 suggestions to make us feel more buoyant this summer.  Please share them with your family and friends, since we all need to support one another.

Promise finger

  1. Let It Go!  Let go of anything that weighs you down.  Surplus material possessions and stuff that no longer has meaning, people and relationships that are toxic, clean out that closet and give to those in need, etc.  Just let go!  You will immediately feel lighter, and more open space will provide an uplift in your spirit.
  2. If something you tried last year didn’t work out, keep trying different ways until it does work.  As the old saying goes, “there is more than one way to skin a cat.”  Try again in different ways; ask close friends or colleagues what they would do.  Valued opinions and objective third parties may very well be the sounding board you need or provide you with the brilliant idea that works.
  3. Broaden your horizons.  No more excuses!  Take that pottery class, dance class, go to that place you’ve always wanted to see, train for a marathon, volunteer, lose weight, etc.  Just do it!  Spend some time on YOU.
  4. Practice appreciation.  Open your eyes and look for the simple pleasures in your life.  Put forth a little effort to see the good in the world.  Sometimes you need to go for a walk and admire the birds, look at the sky, and take some deep breaths.  A survey of centenarians (over 100 years old) shows they attribute their longevity to simple pleasures like walking barefoot, watering their garden, swimming, etc.
  5. Train your brain to think positively.  Yes, there is a lot wrong with the world today, but there is still much good in it.  Go forth, do good things, be a good person, and try to make a difference for others.  The rewards are far greater than you know!  It comes back to you, and it will give you a strong sense of purpose.

©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 June 30, 2015 at 11:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Fighting Over the Same Heirloom

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

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

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

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

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

©2015 The Estate Lady®

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

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

The Haunting and the Healing

Humans can be haunted in many ways: their own fears, an unforgettable bad memory, or a visit from a ghost of the past.  Sometimes a wound is so deep, it has trouble healing because we keep things buried.  The hard part of being haunted is we may not know how to heal it.

I am haunted by a particular memory of my beloved father; I was very close to him.  Dad had dementia, and even through this experience, we remained close.  For all people and caregivers who deal with this beast called dementia, there is no instruction manual, no safe harbor that will provide concise answers and direction to make skilled, knowledgeable decisions.  All you can do is your best.

Dad got along just fine for a long time, until one day, he didn’t.  It all happened so fast.  The day before, we laughed, we ate, we talked and walked and shopped.  It was a good day.  By that midnight, the nurses started calling me.  Dad had declined rapidly — within hours.  A new drug the doctor kept recommending was given to him.  The doctor said it was time for him to take it, now that this decline was happening.  I was worried about all the drugs he was already taking.  Little did I know, this drug would claim his life a few short days later.  I did not know he had a sensitivity to it and feel responsible for what happened.  This is the haunting that I had been carrying.

Last night, I had the most vivid dream.  So vivid, I could see every detail as if I was wide awake and it was really happening.  I was standing inside a fishing boat on a very large, beautiful lake.  Fishing pole in hand, I cast my line and suddenly found myself tangled up in the line.  It looped around my shoulders, arms, neck, hands, and face.  The more I struggled to get free, the more entangled I became.  The line consumed me to the point I could barely move and panic set in.  It was as if I had been wrapped like a mummy with fish line.

Suddenly, my dad appeared right next to me in the boat.  He was wearing his favorite, old, beige windbreaker, blue and white plaid shirt (complete with mechanical pencils and sunglasses case in his pocket), navy ball cap, glasses, and baggy jeans.  He was holding a pair of wire clippers and he gently and slowly raised his hands, as if to tell me to calm down as he started clipping the fish line.

With a few snips, I was free.

Dad gathered the tangled fish line in his hands and threw it behind him, then turned and looked at me.  He said, “Jul, you don’t need that anymore.  Let it go.”  Just like that, he disappeared.

Wow, what a powerful message!  Dad was telling me to let my “haunting” go about the medication and what led to his demise.  He was telling me not to carry it anymore.

Was this apparition really dad who came to comfort me, God himself healing me, or a figment of my imagination?  I prefer to consider one of the first two.  Whomever it was, the experience left me with a great weight lifted.

©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 October 29, 2014 at 9:55 am  Comments (3)  
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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

The Permission to Let Go

For more than two decades, I have cleaned out other people’s estates and enjoyed the reward of knowing we really do make a difference in people’s lives.  As complicated and contentious as the dis-assembly of a loved one’s estate can be, I have learned that the issues that arise during the process come from much more than grief or even greed.

When I am consulting with a family – usually children who are dealing with the aftermath of losing their parent(s) – I can see their very personal struggle, trying to decide what to keep and what to let go.  Many deal with guilt issues and feel compelled to hold on to the items mom so dearly cherished.  I can see that the children do not cherish these items; they become resentful at having to bring them home, even though they have no room for them.

What most people need is permission.

  • Permission to surrender, to relinquish, to let go and find a new home for these items.
  • Permission to accept that these are not the kind of things you may want to keep for yourself or the grandchildren.
  • Permission to not pass the buck to the next generation.

When you boil it all down, it seems to be the one issue the kids don’t even realize they are experiencing, until I say, “It’s ok to let go of it.”  They know instinctively that I know what they are thinking.  Most of the time, a look of awareness hits them, and they just say, “Thank you.  I really needed to hear that.  How did you know I needed someone to give me permission?”

But the “permission to let go” affects many areas of our lives, not just personal possessions.

It finally dawned on me after living on this planet for over 5 decades.  Most of life seems to be about embrace, surrender, and then oddly enough, letting go.  It just seems that life has been a series of fabulous blessings, ups and downs, disappointments, tremendous joys, profound sadness, frustrations, surrender, and …. when the time is right, letting go.

  • Letting go of your small child headed to kindergarten for the first time.
  • Letting them take the car keys.
  • Letting them go off to college.
  • Letting go of our own youth as time marches on.
  • Letting go of a loved one at the end of their life.

It is part of the cycle of life.

It takes introspection, strength, mindfulness, awareness, and while we are at it, a few thousand tears.

I’m writing this as I hear the jingle of keys.  My teenager just shouted up to me, “Bye, Mom!”, jumping in the car along with her newfound freedom, a big smile, and a spring in her step.  It is a bittersweet thing and an almost impossible balance: to be happy for her, on the one hand.  Yet seeing the beautiful adult emerging, I know I must let go of the child in her,  even though I don’t really want to.  Here come a few more tears …

But even I know that all butterflies take flight when they are ready.  We must also be mindful of all the letting go and sacrifices our previous relatives have done for us.

You probably know someone, if not yourself, who is in the process of letting go of something or someone.  Letting go can either be a huge struggle or a freeing experience.  I hope it is the latter for each of us.

Letting go.  What a beautiful gift, if we can find the strength!

©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 May 7, 2014 at 4:51 pm  Comments (3)  
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“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)  
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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

To Honor in Death as Much as in Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I’m darn proud of that too!

©2014 The Estate Lady®

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

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