What’s in Your Plan?

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

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

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

Things to think about:

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

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

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

©2016 The Estate Lady®

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

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

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The Bird, My Teacher

Everyone needs to renew and restore their spirit every now and again, especially in such a hurried society.  Some people go away to the country or the beach where they find solitude and solace as a remedy for feeling overwhelmed and worn out.  It is a good thing to do so.  But do we really journey inside ourselves and heal what’s in there?  I’m willing to stick my neck out and say I don’t necessarily think so.

Today as I approached my car in the driveway, I saw a kooky little bird sitting on the driver’s side mirror, behaving in the strangest manner.  It was completely enamored with its reflection in the mirror.  Its little feet danced and it bobbed its head like crazy, joyous that it found an amiable friend … one that looks just like it!  It was so preoccupied with its reflection that it was not deterred by my presence only 3 feet away.  The next thing you know, the little bird side-stepped along the rim of the driver’s side mirror until he was completely upside down, flapping its wings and having a wonderful time looking at its new friend.

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Don’t you wish we could greet ourselves each day in the mirror just like this?

Everything is relative.  The little bird does not have the advanced intellect to realize it was him in the reflection, yet he was a free spirit having the time of its life.  When we, the highest created intellect on earth, look in the mirror, we don’t see who we really are or even like the reflection we see.  We are too self-critical.  So many of us really don’t want to go there, but we need to, in order to restore ourselves and make peace with the person inside.

I’ve been pretty hard on myself lately.  The fat fairy keeps visiting me (the wench!), and middle age has settled in, not to mention all that comes with that fact.  When I saw that little bird who was so happy to see itself, I thought, “Why can’t we all be more like that?”

Nature has always been amazing to observe.  It teaches us lessons if we pay attention.  Because of that little bird, I will look at myself with more enthusiasm from now on.  How could you not smile when you witness something like that … a tiny creature with a Herculean spirit.  An important lesson for us all.

©2016 The Estate Lady®

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

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

Published in: on February 19, 2016 at 10:30 am  Comments (8)  
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5 Promises to Yourself This New Year

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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, that closet that is overflowing.  Give to those who really need it.  Just let go!  Start singing the song lyrics, “Let it go, Let it go.”  The time is right.  You will immediately feel lighter, and more open space will provide an uplift in your spirit.  Who doesn’t need that?

IF SOMETHING YOU TRIED LAST YEAR DIDN’T WORK OUT, KEEP TRYING DIFFERENT WAYS UNTIL IT DOES WORK.

If it’s a good goal for you, there’s likely more than one way to accomplish it.  Try, try again in new and different ways.  Maybe the timing wasn’t right, but the plan was.  Ask close friends or colleagues what they would do.  Valued opinions and objective third parties may well be the sounding board you need and provide the brilliant idea you were seeking.

BROADEN YOUR HORIZONS.

No more excuses!  Take that class, pursue that hobby, go to that place you’ve always wanted to see.  Just do it!  Spend some time on you. I just signed up for a comprehensive first aid course because I feel that would be good knowledge to have.  But I sure could use a trip to the Bahamas … (grin).

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, because every day we are bombarded with the bad.  Sometimes you need to go for a walk and admire nature, the changing leaves, a lake, a puppy, your neighbor’s flower garden.  Take a walk, look at the sky, and take deep breaths.  A survey of centenarians (100 years old and over) shows they attribute their longevity to simple pleasures like walking barefoot, watering their garden, eating their favorite food, swimming, etc.

TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO THINK POSITIVELY.

Yes, much is wrong with our world today, but there is still much good in it.  Add to that list of positives.  Go forth, do good things, be a better person, and make a difference for others.  Volunteer to help someone do what they can’t do alone.  Give, knowing they can’t give back to you.  The rewards are far greater than you know!  It comes back ten-fold and gives 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 December 28, 2015 at 11:53 am  Comments (8)  
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How to Feel Fulfilled This Christmas

Things do bring instant gratification, but not long-lasting happiness. 

We keep buying more things to keep feeling good.  Sometimes we use things to ease unresolved pain and issues.  We continue to accumulate debt, but are still left unfulfilled and discontented.  In the end, these things end up in the hands of family or a professional to sell them.

Want to feel fulfilled?  Make a Difference!

  • Dress the less fortunate by sorting your clothing, shoes, etc. and donating what you don’t use.  Do the same with surplus items in your food pantry.
  • Bust the clutter in your attics and garages.  So much that you have laying around can be used by someone in need.  Find the appropriate organizations and give your clutter away.
  • Practice the art of giving from the heart.
  • Refrain from unnecessary purchases for at least six months.

Time’s running out for Christmas shopping, your debt is growing, and you still don’t know what to buy for certain people on your list.  What to do?

Why buy anything?

Why not give the best gift in the world — yourself?

  • Go visit someone you have been meaning to see for a long time. Surprise a loved one you haven’t seen for years.
  • Write that letter, bake those cookies.
  • Volunteer for those needing your help or visit shut-ins.
  • Make that phone call to make amends, because you and your mother haven’t spoken in years.
  • Bring your children to an assisted living or nursing home, and watch the residents light up. Have your children draw pictures and then visit and sing for those in shelters or facilities.
  • Say what you need to say, and do so right now.
  • Ask for forgiveness and always offer it, no matter what.
  • Offer hugs to those who really need it.
  • Make gifts for everyone on your list.
  • Listen to your elders because you will learn so much.

Not sure what to give the senior adult on your list?

  • Spend a full day with them and ask them to share stories of your family history — fun stories, challenges, family secrets, marriages, customs — and look through old photos. Record this day and create a book for them (with copies for your family members), so it may be passed down for years to come. Many children regret not having more family history, but realize this only after the loved one has died.
  • Find a special photograph and frame it. Ask an elder for a secret family recipe, so it can be carried on; then make it for them.

When we think of the upcoming holidays, we also need to be counting the multitude of blessings we do have, rather than wishing for the ones we don’t have. Make it a special holiday for others, and it will come back to you, in the form of contentment and joy — both in giving and in receiving.

©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 December 16, 2015 at 10:28 am  Comments (4)  
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Nostalgia is Not Hereditary

Why on earth do we hold on to so much stuff that we never use or even want?  That is the million dollar question!  As time goes on, I see more and more people holding on to items from estates, that they don’t really need, and truth be told, don’t really want either.

It is natural to have emotional attachments to objects in grandmother’s home, our own parents’ home, or to anyone dear to us who has passed away.  These emotions can be deeply anchored to memories of cherished people, places, and special times; it becomes a priority to preserve these memories after they go.

Sometimes, we can go overboard and start keeping things for ourselves, our kids and grandchildren, who may not be interested in them at all.

If you only take one thing away from today’s blog, let it be this:

Emotional attachment does not guarantee a transference of emotion from one generation to the next generation.  The relationship between a grandmother and grandchild is different than that of a mother and child, and so on.  Each subsequent generation will most likely not feel the same emotional tug that you might.  It is important to realize this and to accept it.

When you do not accept this and you continue to hold onto things that take up a great deal of space, and don’t mean much to the children or heirs, you become a storage facility for your family.  In addition, a new and unpleasant situation will arise where the next generation (the one that doesn’t desire these items to begin with) must now bear the burden of dealing with the stuff after we leave this earth.

I can virtually guarantee they will not care for these items the way you do, and often are upset and resentful when having to sell or discard them.  When this happens, hasty decisions are made to “just get rid of it.”

Choose only your favorite things and let the rest go.

Future generations will be most appreciative.

©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.

Letting Go of Our Possessions is Hard

Most of us enjoy hearing the words, “Till death do us part,” during a wedding ceremony, where the new couple is floating in bliss and envision being by each other’s side until death separates them.  From my perspective, I see people who have a very passionate relationship with their material possessions, sometimes more so than with each other.  It almost appears that they believe they can take their possessions with them when they leave earth.

For over two decades, I have tried to figure out why people have such a difficult time letting go.  Often it’s the Depression Era generation that has accumulated the most stuff.  Their parents did not have much and probably possessed mostly utilitarian items during that era.  The Depression Era generation absorbed what their parents owned.  The Boomers have much more stuff to deal with, but they have only so much space to keep things.

Here are some thoughts on why people hold on to so much.  Where do you see yourself in these thoughts?

  • You just never know when I’m going to need this.
  • There are so many uses for this possession.
  • If I hold onto it long enough, it will become valuable.
  • It is already old, so it must be valuable.
  • I did without as a child; I will not do without again.
  • It was a gift and I will honor the giver by keeping it.
  • The more I leave the kids, the more they will have.
  • I worked very hard for these things and I will pass them down.
  • The things bring comfort and familiarity.
  • All these things make me feel close to my parents.
  • My children will feel loved by me when I’m gone, because I left them all these things.
  • I’m too overwhelmed to let it go (emotional attachment).
  • I’ll let the kids deal with the stuff after I’m gone.

Here’s the part where I try to put my clients at ease.  When in doubt, always have the contents of an estate viewed by a true professional prior to distributing or selling contents.  Most times, the heirs are not surprised to learn that much of what mom and dad amassed doesn’t have much value.  Some children feel the stuff may be “junk” and are pleasantly surprised to find that some pieces have significant value.  Family stories through the years can add to the anticipation that grandfather’s chair is valuable because it is old.  Yet, we know age is not the only determining factor of true value.

For every reason listed above, there is a counter-reason to let it go.

  • Many of your heirs won’t take as much as you would like to give them.
  • Boomer children already have houses full of stuff; adding more will only fuel marital strife.
  • Your younger generations appear to want very little but cash assets.
  • Leaving a huge burden for your children should not be your legacy.
  • Much of your stuff will be out of style and not genuinely desired by your heirs.
  • Your heirs may have different lifestyles and your stuff won’t fit those styles.
  • Many are trying to simplify their own lives, not add more stuff to clean and hold.
  • If you sell your stuff now, you can purchase other things you would truly enjoy.
  • These items were treasured by someone else, but not you and not now.

Holding on to possessions, for the sake of not wanting to let them go, can leave a negative impact on those left behind.  Gifting valuable items now is a beautiful way to pass along your treasures and watch your heirs enjoy them.  Making plans for the distribution of your possessions, while you are still in control of these decisions, is the best plan of action.

©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.

One Chip Can Do A Lot of Damage

In my world of personal property, one little chip or ding, fracture or re-glue, can mean the difference between going into the trash or selling it for far less than if it was in perfect condition.   As an appraiser, I know that original condition is just one very important characteristic when assigning value.

My entire career has centered around selling items that are in good, original condition — not stripped of its original finish, not repainted, not repaired or refurbished — just plain original condition.  That original condition attracts the collector toward the mellowness of color that only the passage of time can create on a beautiful wood piece, imperfections and all.  Those imperfections “prove” to the collector’s discriminating eye its true age, and the history and personality of the piece.  Worn leather, distress marks, scars from accidents, etc. are all part of the life of our antique possessions before they came to us.

The collector knows some of these marks are positive attributes, but the average person is in search of perfection — perfection of body, perfection of mind, perfection for each facet of their lives.

The truth suddenly occurred to me!  We should look at ourselves and each other in the very same manner as that special collector.  We are aging; we have earned our stripes.  We have gained insight and wisdom through the passage of years.  Yet we too have many imperfections: a chip here and there, a few fracture lines, a scar or blemish.  We should strive to do our best to live with our original condition for as long as possible.

While one chip can greatly diminish the value of an antique platter, our own self-worth only grows deeper with our well-earned battle scars from a life well lived and loved.

©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 July 15, 2015 at 10:46 am  Comments (6)  
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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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6 Big Mistakes People Make with Personal Property

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2015 The Estate Lady®

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

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

If I Hadn’t Gone Out in the Storm

Having worked 14 hours yesterday, I was really dragging when I finally arrived home from an estate.   I had missed lunch and dinner, was dehydrated, had 11 phone calls to return, and an appraisal to complete.  It was a harrowing day: people not showing up, challenges at the estate, the phone wouldn’t stop ringing, etc.  At home, there was no peace either: the house was messy, my daughter needed help, and the cat needed to be fed and medicated.  How can anyone work this hard?  I thought to myself.

The torrential rain came with the thundering on the roof and windows.  I was finally relieved to be printing off my appraisal report.  All of a sudden, no ink remained and the printer came to a screeching halt.  Time was a factor; I had to print it out and get it in the mail.  Glancing outside, I knew I had to go out in the storm, as tired as I was.  The truth is I didn’t want to go, and I started having a little pity party all by myself, in the confines of my office.  My daughter felt badly because she had used my printer relentlessly for a school project, which left me with no ink.

I glanced at the raging storm outside.  It’s now or never.  It’s got to get done.

I grabbed my keys and was on my way to Staples, but it closed 4 minutes before I arrived.  Just my luck.  I drove further in the rain to find another store and finally got my ink, just in time before they closed.  Sopping wet and resigned to my situation, I drove home animatedly, talking out loud in the car about all my complaints.  Finally I turned the corner heading home, and instantly, the rain stopped, the sun popped out, and this is what I saw.  I pulled to the side of the road to take this photo and share it with you.

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If I hadn’t gone out in the storm, I never would have seen this beauty.  My Grinch face softened into a smile, knowing someone up above had my back.  I couldn’t help but wonder if I was just a little too busy chasing that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, instead of realizing I already had it.

We all work hard and it can be a challenge to make ends meet and make things work for us.  Sometimes we need a sign of hope and joy to remind us it’s the simple things that make us smile the most.  My favorites? Chocolate, gardening, blissful naps, my cat’s purring, and the “buzz” of a hummingbird.

©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 April 23, 2015 at 8:35 am  Comments (12)  
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