The Blockade

Obstacles are everywhere in life:

  • The teenager left a mound of clothes to step over
  • You’re stuck in morning traffic
  • Everyone’s in the kitchen at the same time
  • You reach the grocery checkout and there’s long lines

Think about how much time is spent waiting to either go around or jump over obstacles and you’ll see it’s an astounding amount of time we can never regain.

In one aspect of life, I see obstacles where they should not be.  In my estates, I work closely with boomer children to guide them in making solid decisions regarding their parents’ possessions:

  • what should be sold
  • how it should be sold
  • how to maximize the sale
  • options and resources

My work also places me in the nitty-gritty of “family affairs”, many situations that are not for the faint of heart.  In the last few years, I am seeing siblings doing things against each other more than ever before, and I call it The Blockade.

A good example of The Blockade is when one sibling moves in with a parent, either to help with their needs or because the sibling is financially strapped and needs a place to live.  Often, it is both.  This sibling is usually helpful with the parent and keeps the home clean, helps cook, cares for mom, etc.  The problem takes place after mom is placed in another residence like assisted living or passes away.  Getting that sibling to move out of the family home can take an act of God.  Literally.

I see these children (not all, but many of them) not want to budge and often force the hand of the executor.  Sometimes they feel justified because they did so much work and offered care for the parent.  I understand that.  However the entitlement mentality does not belong here at this place and time, because mom’s will often stipulates the home is to be sold and possessions divided.

Rarely is this sibling the executor or legal decision maker.  Since I work with the legal decision maker, I get a front row seat to this event.  Sad to watch!  The sibling living in the home will use it as a storage facility, settling in for the long run and making life very hard on the other siblings and especially the executor.  Resentment grows; you can figure out the remainder of the story.

I have seen these refusing-to-budge siblings throw fits, threaten, etc.  The bottom line is if the legal documents are prepared ahead of time and the instructions are clear that the home is to be sold and divided among the heirs, that is what must be carried out.

It is not okay to be The Blockade.  I can see both sides and I understand the emotional ties to a home and possessions can be very strong.  But nothing ever stays the same.  Everything transitions to some other place.  Life is ever-changing.  Sometimes things cannot remain the same, even if we want them to.

This is about the parent’s wishes and fulfilling them for ALL involved!

I recently had the pleasure of working with an executor who had to deal with this situation.  He did not want to hurt his sibling.  He had already been incredibly patient.  His situation was fairly simple as the will specified what had to be done.  I encouraged him to:

  1. Document correspondence to that sibling, including emails and certified letters, stressing mom’s will be followed.
  2. Offer the sibling a fair amount of time to vacate and give a date when they will need to be moved out to a new home.  (This sibling had been dragging their feet for a year now.)  They might say they have no money and no place to live, but they have to put forth effort and do what is legally and morally right.  If they are in ill-health, try to help them with local resources.
  3. Enlist the advice of an attorney if you cannot resolve this issue on your own.  No one wants to do this, but in some cases, you may have to meet one to find out the best course of action because of all the problems arising from The Blockade.  Perhaps it can be resolved peacefully, which is optimal for everyone.
  4. Hire a realtor.
  5. Be present, or have a representative present, when they do move out.  In this case, items were disappearing daily which is certainly not fair to the other siblings.  Have the locks changed immediately after the sibling leaves.
  6. Hire an estate sale professional immediately after they have moved out to sell the contents of the home.  www.ASELonline.com
  7. Everyone move forward with their lives.  Try your best to keep the peace.

Life is hard enough without added obstacles.  Do your best to never become one.  If you know someone who is currently The Blockade, talk to them about how their actions are impacting others.  The goal is to be part of the resolution, not part of the problem.

©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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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.

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.

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.

Are We Ever Really Ready?

I saw a post on Facebook about “Being Ready” in connection with making difficult decisions.  This thought crossed my mind: Are we ever really ready for anything major in our lives?

  • Life-altering decisions
  • financial strife
  • ill health
  • arriving at personal crossroads
  • leaps of faith we want to take but are concerned, procrastinating, or just plain terrified

These things seem to paralyze us and ultimately our decisions. Or, are we more concerned with the potential consequences of those decisions that are so frightening to us?

All of these things, whether good or not, can be pretty scary.

  • Should I take that job in another state?
  • Do I move forward and start that new company now?
  • Should I wait for the economy to get stronger?
  • Is the time right to move mom into a new living environment?
  • Is my son ready to go off to college?

The questions and issues are limitless … and overwhelming!

I think if we wait until we’re actually really ready, we may have regrets that we didn’t do it sooner while we were still able, or sadly, we may no longer be here to make those decisions.  I cannot speak for anyone else, but I refuse to live my golden years with “woulda-coulda-shoulda.”  Sometimes, you just have to do it or not.  The opportunity will not remain open forever.

I don’t think human nature is ever fully ready to do anything.  This is why nature itself forces us to go forward sometimes, such as giving birth.  Thank goodness nature “pushes” us into it, or we would rarely volunteer to do it!  We have a tendency to think too much and over-analyze (I put myself at the top of that list.).

Big decisions or life-altering events require some introspection and time, but not SO much time that the opportunity comes and then goes.  The truth is we know the answers already, deep down inside.  We already know what the answer should be.  Then our heads and hearts get in the way.  Nature provides us with that gut instinct.  If we would just pay attention to it and not block it, the answers would come more readily.

In my career, I see those who are prepared, those who are not prepared at all, and those who have made some preparations or plans for their future.  Trust me when I share that those who have a plan fare better than those who don’t.  But you can’t plan for everything.

Even in unexpected circumstances that may strike you or your family, that you are completely unprepared for, all you can do is your best!

Listen to your instinct.

Take a leap of faith every once in a while.

Believe that anything is possible.  Even if you are not ready, here it comes.

Embrace it or walk away from it.

Always try to think positively about your decisions.

It’s never productive to sit on a fence for too long.

©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 14, 2015 at 10:03 am  Comments (2)  
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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.

“I’ll Get to it One Day!”

While the sentiment is a good one, we all know human nature a little too well.  The trouble is, “one day” rarely comes.

  • Out of sight, out of mind.
  • I’ll get to that later.
  • I’ll look into that in the new year.
  • It’s not a priority right now.

It’s fascinating what we professionals notice in estates.  We see a distinct similarity in almost all of the estates we go into, especially if the estate belonged to an elderly loved one from the Depression Era.  The attics are usually full; interesting that 85% of them are full of things that really should have been disposed of 30+ years ago.

By the time we get into these attics to clear them out, the books are rotted and have been gnawed on, anything cardboard has pretty much disintegrated, clothing either smells like mildew or falls apart in our hands, or we find items that have long since been obsolete and no one has any use for them.  If items of value were stored in the attic, which is a big no-no, chances are good they have been damaged and the value greatly diminished.  This is not always the case, but generally what we find.  On very rare occasions, we find treasures hidden up there too, but they have been long forgotten and the family most likely was never told about them.

My assistant has a saying when we are working in the daunting attics, up to our elbows in stuff:

“They were young when they put this stuff up here.  By the time they finally figure out it has to be dealt with, they are elderly and can’t get up here anymore.  That’s how long this stuff has been sitting around and most of it is being discarded.  With all this paper up here, it’s a miracle the house didn’t go up like a match.”

This is accurate on many levels.  Time stops for no one.  We all have the best intentions of cleaning out the shed, garage, closets, cupboards.  But if you continue to procrastinate and something happens where you or your loved one is incapacitated, it truly leaves a burden for the ones you leave behind.  A bigger burden than you realize.

If you have had your sights on a project around the house which includes clearing out some stuff, make sure you know what it is worth before you sell it or give it away.  It is better to clear out the clutter now, so you can feel better and not worry later.  We all could probably come up with numerous excuses.  With spring coming, it’s time to just do it!

©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.

Are You Leaving Behind a Gift or Guilt?

Are you leaving a gift or guilt for your loved ones?  A bounty or a burden?  It’s time to think about it.  Seriously.

Living or deceased, in about 90% of the cases I see, older adults are leaving a burden.  This is not criticism, but merely an observation.  I see older adults:

  • not thinning out or downsizing
  • not sorting through files from decades ago
  • not having old business/company paperwork shredded
  • not recycling magazines, catalogs, and newspapers that are piled high
  • not going through boxes that were packed when they moved in years prior
  • not sorting through closets which contain clothes not worn in years
  • not sorting through family photos (which means the children won’t know who’s in them)
  • not whittling down the kitchen’s abundance of glassware and cookware

In short, they are either unwilling or simply don’t have the energy to tackle this.  In either case, there is always professional assistance available to help; first, you have to want to do this.  Knowing human behavior, I think some of it is also avoidance.

If an older adult doesn’t want to do these things, what makes them think their kids or loved ones will want to do them?

I can tell you firsthand, they don’t.

We should start downsizing at 50 and keep doing a little each year, so what does pile up is manageable and never reaches that daunting level.  Here’s the hard-hitting reality of this blog: if you don’t do it now, you are leaving an overwhelming task for your children or loved ones to handle after you leave this place.  As a personal favor, please don’t do that.

One of the most horrible things I have ever heard is, “I’m leaving it for the kids to deal with.  I won’t be here.”  Many will consider this a very selfish way of thinking.

The children or loved ones we leave behind have very busy lives of their own.  They may still have children to raise and a full-time job.  They may be caring for other family members who are ailing.  It’s also possible they are up in age and not quite able to do the cleaning out themselves.  It is a task no one wants to tackle, especially when they happen to live 600 miles away and have to take time off work (often their personal vacation time) to clean out an estate.

If you could see what I see when they are in these homes putting in 110% effort with little progress, it is a sad sight to behold.  The legacy one intends to leave is not the one the children actually feel.  They feel sad, mad, and often have a dazed look on their faces as they complain that mom and dad had years to do this cleaning and never did.

“Why did they leave this for me?”

 One of the very best gifts or legacy you could leave your loved ones, is to begin the process of whittling down and clearing out, even if you have to hire help, or find trustworthy volunteers to do it.  You may not be there to see the relief and gratitude on their faces, but take it from one who knows.  It makes all the difference in the world to them.  They will truly appreciate your gift … and your legacy will live on.

©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 Emotional Porter

When I pack for a pleasure trip, I only allow myself to bring one piece of luggage.  I traveled for many years and made a habit of running for my plane in high heels and skirts (way back when).  Now that I am older, I do everything in my power to lighten my load, wear sensible shoes, and give my aching back a break.  I can’t wait to check my bag, sit down, and relax.

I think many of us lug around our emotional baggage on a daily basis and never bother to “check” it.  Maybe we don’t know how to, or maybe we just forget, so we end up dragging it with us wherever we go.  It gets rather tiring, doesn’t it?

In my business of helping clients sort through estates, after a loved one has moved to assisted living or has died, I see many children/heirs carry a lot of baggage with them, to the point of personal detriment.  I realize that we are not at our personal best when these situations occur, but even after months and years of not making proper decisions, we still carry our emotional baggage wherever we go.  It then becomes a monkey on our back, and we get angry and even resentful.  It chokes our spirit because we don’t know how to heal it.

This emotional baggage comes from a place of not dealing with our stuff ahead of time, before the loss.

  • Not speaking our truth,
  • Not making amends,
  • Not having that conversation when we could have,
  • Not asking the questions to get the answers we want,
  • Not healing wounds that could have been healed.

We forget to forgive ourselves for whatever is eating at us!

Besides all that, I see clients feeling guilty and taking possessions they don’t really want.  It only means we have more to carry, or more for our children to carry.  Life is hard enough.

We don’t need to lug around someone else’s sentiment or prized possessions.

That was their desire, not ours.

On some deep level, we must consider it our penance to drag around this baggage, like the ghost, Jacob Marley, in “A Christmas Carol” showing Scrooge all the heavy chains he must now carry, due to the choices he made in life.  PhotoMichalDanielIt doesn’t have to be like that; release yourself!

I see many children/heirs carry a lot of baggage with them, to the point of personal detriment.  Keeping too much stuff can cause divorce, tension, fighting, resentment, and anger among our still-living family.  It’s just not worth it!

Some would argue that everything they kept was sentimental, but you can’t squash mom’s household of stuff into your already-full household of stuff and expect everything to be ok.  There is only so much you can keep; it should never cause strife among siblings, spouses, or children.

Holding on to grandmother’s or dad’s possessions are not a mandate, not something you have to do.  It’s something you want to do.  Seriously edit your selections as you do.  If in doubt, listen to your inner voice and pass on the item.  Take a photo of it and pass it on.

Don’t be pushed, nudged, guilted, obliged, forced, or coerced by any person, any memory, any ghost, or more importantly, yourself.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

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

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

 

 

Things We Find Left Behind

Treasure is in the eye of the beholder.  What one person holds dear, another wants nothing to do with.  This is true between elderly parents and their middle-aged children, and even grandchildren.  The Depression Era generation doesn’t let go of much.  They take great pride in their possessions, especially the ladies with their ornate silver plate pieces, painted china, and etched crystal that they cherished in another time and place.

We find a ton of handwritten notes intended for those left behind.  We find them tucked inside vases, taped to the back of china or paintings, taped under sculptures and figurines.  We find loose notes in desk drawers.  Sometimes, we even find the notes laying right where the author left them before being struck with infirmity or death.

These notes are meant to guide the loved ones after their death and they often include a myriad of information: the history behind the item, the name of the person they are leaving it to, and my personal favorite … what they think it is worth.  Many of these notes have yellowed with age and some are barely decipherable.  To complicate the matter, this particular generation has a tendency to change their minds frequently, often creating multiple notes with mixed messages (probably depending on who ticked them off most recently – according to the children who read the notes).  It is also possible they may forget and start all over.

Here is an example of one I just found:

Dated 1977

“In my antique chest, with the items I intend to give to Susan and Ralph.  Top shelf – “Boy and two goats” Royal Copenhagen figurine and female Hummel. – $2,000 value

Second shelf – Royal Doulton Toby mugs and Hummel plates – $1,800 value

Third shelf – Carlsbad, Austria dish and crystal duck and cat – $300 value

To Robert and Sylvia – In the hutch – the smaller Hummel figurines, Venetian glass fish, crystal candle holder and small Royal Doulton figurine. – $1,500 value”

The list is quite extensive and goes on for a long time.  Here’s what we need to know from this story:

  1. These items were never distributed.
  2. They were never distributed because no one wanted them.
  3. They ended up in my hands to sell for the family and they will split the proceeds.

Do notes help?  I think sometimes they do, especially when they offer personal history and IF you want to keep these items.  Notes can also be removed or taken by unscrupulous heirs-to-be, and often we find more than one version of their notes, which claim different people can have the same item.

How do you handle that one?  You write a formal addendum or document to place with your Will or Trust, and make sure there is only one copy, not multiples.  Ask your attorney how to do this.  Better yet, consider giving it away or selling these items, if the children don’t want them, before any of this takes place.

From my experience, many times the intentions of these notes are never carried out.

You can have the best intentions but if they are not carried through, it’s a moot point.

If you want someone to have somethings special of yours, give it to them while you are still able to do so.

Somewhere along the line, we have to break the habit of waiting until someone is “gone” to deal with all of this.  Granted some people prefer it that way, but more and more, we are seeing a trend of people giving away or selling their items before they pass, to make it easier on their loved ones left behind.

Personally, I think the best notes we can leave behind are thoughts of joy and love, and not necessarily who gets what and how much items are worth.  My favorite “possession” from my late mother is a letter she sent me stating how proud she is of me and how I have chosen to serve people, and may God bless me abundantly for doing so.  It is a deeply personal note and one that I will always cherish.  I would gladly let go of the material stuff I inherited from her, for this one note and memories of happy times.  That’s the REAL inheritance!

©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