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.

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.

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.

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 Roses

SAMSUNGRemember when we were little kids and our eyes went directly to the big, brightly colored, sugar-icing roses on our birthday cakes?  Everyone fought over those colorful, sugary roses that contained enough fuel to shoot us to the moon and back, or at least until midnight when the sugar buzz finally wore off and we crashed wherever we landed.  We were probably 5 or 6 years old, but already we had learned a lesson that would follow us throughout our lives.

The voice in our heads beckoned us to eat as much as possible including all those coveted roses.  After all, “it’s my cake, my birthday!  Why shouldn’t I have it all to myself?”

Mother’s quiet, yet serious tone forced me to share, and share equally among the other children at my party.  “You have to be fair to everyone,” she would say.

But that just isn’t fair to me, I thought to myself.  It’s my cake!  I should have all of the slices of cake with the roses on them.  (The roses were, and still are, my favorite.)

So it is with much of life.  We all want the “roses” in life; that includes our loved one’s estates.  You’ve had your eye on that antique grandfather clock, or mom’s diamond ring, or dad’s fishing lure collection for years.  You believe you should have them, or perhaps they were promised to you long ago, so you just assume they will be yours one day.  Then that “one day” comes and your siblings claim the same thing, so the trouble begins.  Indeed, every rose has its thorn.

Until items are gifted to you in person prior to infirmity or death, or until there is a written plan for those heirlooms upon a loved one’s passing, you are entitled to nothing unless it is given to you.  Even if you don’t end up with your beloved “rose,” remember that while we would like to have the majority of the cake, it’s good and appropriate to share as equally as possible, even if you feel it shouldn’t be that way.

I have seen with my own eyes good and poor behavior when dividing estates.  Those who lead with kindness and care for others end up faring the rocky experience pretty well.  Others will watch how you react, respond, and behave.  Much to my surprise, they will usually follow suit, especially if the plan is laid out before them.

Make a pact that there will be no fighting.  “Roses” are great, but peace is even better!

©2015 The Estate Lady®

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

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

 

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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Seven Attorneys for Seven Siblings

Consulting on an unusual estate recently, I was informed there were 7 beneficiaries, 4 of which were also co-executors.  Can you imagine that many co-executors?  What a nightmare!  This estate also had personal property, which the family felt to be very valuable, but it wasn’t.  There was a bunch of land to be divided, or sold and divided among the children.

Naturally, when you have that many cooks in the kitchen, everyone has different thoughts and opinions.  This is why co-executors is not necessarily a good choice.  In my opinion, estate settlement is much harder when you hand decisions to people who can’t come to a conclusion and end up fighting, or potentially going broke doing so.  Some wanted the land intact; others wanted it subdivided.  You can see where this story is going and it isn’t good.

The siblings had indeed reached an impasse.  One long distance heir, who had little to do with mom while she was alive, was the first to get an attorney involved, then everyone else followed suit.  It just gets messier from there.

I have been doing this for a very long time; I hope you don’t think I’m crazy when I share with you that people and their behaviors are getting worse.  Their behavior is often out of control, along with other emotions, sometimes even getting physical.  It makes me wonder.

What on earth could be so grand that it’s worth destroying themselves, as well as other relatives and relationships?  Don’t these people know they are going to have to carry the burden of their decisions for the remainder of their lives?

Don’t get me wrong.

I’d love to have a slice of land or the proceeds from it.

Who wouldn’t?

But not at this cost.

It just isn’t worth it!

The attorneys will do their jobs well, and whatever inheritance there is will dwindle with legal fees.

Interesting observation:  While the inheritance is decreasing, the emotions and angst will only increase and be prolonged, sometimes for the rest of the lifetime, long after the estate has been settled.

Is there anyone to blame in this scenario?  Fingers can be pointed all day long.  In the end, it comes down to the original decision maker who did not specify what should happen to the property and named so many co-executors.  Big mistake which caused even more strife for those left behind.

I ask you plainly … Is it really worth it?

I couldn’t possibly make this stuff up!

©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.

Don’t Let Parents Leave Without This!

It always puts a smile on my face when people email me to let me know they enjoy my writings.  Sometimes I get great advice too.  I heard from Mary, a lovely lady who works as a nurse in an Alzheimer’s Assisted Living facility.  She enjoyed my book of checklists, “How to Clean Out Your Parents’ Estate in 30 Days or Less,” and thought of a few more things to add to the book.

Revised EditionHow to Clean Out Your Parent’s Estate

She lived through this process with middle-aged children and elderly parents, and she knows what may be needed.  Here are her recommendations:

  1. A copy of a marriage certificate is necessary for most insurance policies.
  2. Be sure you have on hand a birth certificate.  If you don’t have it, order a couple of original copies from the state where they were born.
  3. Documents for a cemetery plot or Neptune Society plans
  4. Military discharge paperwork for burial in a veteran’s cemetery, or even to implement veteran’s benefits for medications or financial benefits toward long-term care.  EXCELLENT POINT!
  5. Has your loved one pre-chosen or pre-paid funeral home expenses?  People die unexpectedly and often the family has no clue what was prepaid, where to bury them, or what their wishes were (cremation, laid to rest).  As you may recall, both of my parents died rapidly.  Thank goodness, we had all of their paperwork, including dad’s veteran papers.
  6. Copies of will/trust and living will.  Whether they do or do not want a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), it has to be documented and you will need copies if you are suddenly faced with making life or death decisions.  Dying without a will or in debt is not a good idea.
  7. Medication disposal:  Please dispose of medications in a lidded glass jar with coffee grounds or cat litter, and soap and water.  Dissolve medication in that jar and then throw away.  You can also contact your local pharmacy for their drug “take-back” program.  Mary reminds me that many meds, like chemo drugs, can be especially toxic.

Thank you for these words of wisdom!

©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 September 27, 2013 at 1:58 pm  Comments (1)  
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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