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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Time of the Heavy Heart

How Can We Change That?

Lately, I am sensing a heaviness of spirit in almost everyone I speak with, from good friends to colleagues to clients.  We carry this heaviness due to the times we live in; 24-hour news and social media and seeing the worst of the worst around the globe.  I personally feel a heaviness in how we see people treating one another.  The dark appears to be overtaking the light every time we turn on the computer or TV.  While they say the economy is stronger, in my world I see a much softer market and weaker economy.

I also see my clients outliving their money; tough decisions need to be made by their Boomer children.  I have heard stories from colleagues that buyers and clients have turned threatening if they don’t get their own way.  These threats are from middle-aged people who know better and have lost their way in the graceful art of problem solving.

Geopolitical issues are a whole other topic which requires nerves of steel to discuss.  Wherever we look, there is stress.  But lately, I have come to look at all of this in a different way.

After noticing I have a tendency to worry, my father once asked me if I am personally capable of controlling issues like mentioned above.  No, I cannot make the economy strong again and I cannot make people treat each other with respect.  I can’t even provide the financial means for everyone who needs it.

However, I can control how I respond to these troubles.

I can find my own unique and personal ways of contributing more good and more light.

By contributing, I mean solving the problem, finding peaceful resolutions, finding compromise in a world of “gimmee,” being reasonable, and at the same time trying to help others who need it.

When on earth did everyone become so entitled?  Haven’t you noticed we are all starting to slump over, as if the weight of the world is on our backs?

We have a choice.  Not one of us has been eliminated from carrying some kind of burden: health, finances, children, work, etc.  I have a theory that this world is a classroom and we are the students; we should learn a lesson and then go teach others.  Problems and burdens will always come and so will the bills.

  • Keep lists of what needs to be done and cross them off one at a time.
  • Feel good about what was accomplished.
  • Help others accomplish what they need help with.
  • Do something fun and show your grin as often as possible.  Someone is always watching and may need that smile.
  • Learn to find “you” again.
  • Lastly, just be kind because the world already has too many thugs.

In a world so full of dark, don’t you think it would be wise to turn on our inner light?  That’s my take on it!

©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 September 1, 2016 at 10:35 am  Comments (8)  
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10 Estate Behavior Commands

With great reverence for God’s 10 commandments, here are the basic rules which should be followed in any and every estate situation.  Often, we aren’t thinking clearly in the middle of the estate settlement and distribution process.

While there are no laws that pertain to human behavior when handling an estate and the distribution of property, these commandments should be “etched in stone” to remind us how we should behave.

  1. Thou shalt not worship material possessions.  They can be a monkey on your back and, ultimately, you can’t take them with you.
  2. Greed and the love of possessions can be false idols which can, and often do, ruin families.
  3. Don’t forget to take Sabbath for yourself.  We all need time and space to breathe and reflect.
  4. Honor your loved one that just passed away.  Take actions that would respect them and make them proud.
  5. Thou shalt not kill thy family relationships by destroying your chance to find peaceful resolutions.  Mend your fences.
  6. Do not cheat anyone, including yourself, in the estate distribution process.
  7. Thou shalt not steal anything, even if you think no one is watching.  Someone is always watching.
  8. Thou shalt not throw thy sibling(s) under the bus.  What goes around often comes around.
  9. Thou shalt not covet anything a sibling gets.  It’s not worth it; let it go.
  10. Stay true to who you are and walk as straight a path as possible.  Not only is immediate family watching, but your children and grandchildren as well.  Set an excellent example.

©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

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.

bird-looking-in-rear-view-mirror

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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Perils of Preposterous Pricing, Part 2

Older “die-hard” collectors are passing away and selling their massive collections all at once.  So who is going to buy all these items?  Some will be sold to today’s collectors, though far fewer in number than serious collectors years ago.  Hence, these collections are saturating the market, driving prices and values lower.  Too much supply, not enough demand.

Let’s return to the seller wanting to sell items they believe are valuable just because mom paid a fortune for them.  They believe what they have is special and unique.  Most of the time, figurines, china, collector’s plates, glassware, Victorian furniture and the like have saturated the market because millions of our moms and dads are passing away.  Boomers are downsizing.  Generation X and Y don’t want these items.  Millennials are into themselves, not material possessions.  These younger generations collect virtually, not materially.

When an heir is looking to sell Lenox, Waterford, Hummel, Franklin Mint, Depression glass, antique furniture, large wardrobes, entertainment centers, and china hutches, the estate experts only have to show how very flooded the market is to get the consumers to understand that these items are now worth very little.

When I look on Ebay and see a “sterling silver lot of 50 grams,” I wonder why on earth one would attempt to sell it for $200 when it would barely get $30 with the current spot price of silver, unless it was a unique designer piece or desirable manufacturer.  Asking outrageous prices for items that are clearly not worth it any longer will backfire on the seller.

It is what it is.  No expert, myself included, can alter these trends of simplification, downsizing, and squeezing more bang out of a buyer’s buck than we already do.  The market is speaking and we need to listen.

Another issue?  Many people with a smart phone in their hand believe they are an expert.  I can assure you they are not.  They just Google over-inflated prices, unless they are wanting to buy.  If they are buyers, they search for the lowest possible prices in hopes of getting an item at a small cost.  These issues are just the tip of the iceberg for what experts are dealing with as they handle personal property while managing clients’ expectations.

It takes an expert many years to understand trends, observe patterns, know how to maximize value, and offer the best value for the client.  Do-it-yourselfers often do themselves a disservice by not enlisting the assistance of a professional who is experienced in all of the above.

©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.

Perils of Preposterous Pricing, Part 1

Where do people come up with these prices and values?  Understanding the difference between what was paid for an item and what you can sell the item for in today’s market is like the difference between buying a new car and selling it used.  Depreciation has taken place in most cases.  Much has changed in the secondary marketplace.  Sellers must realize that there must first be someone who wants the item (demand) in order for it to have and hold value.

People still call my office to inform me of what their items are worth, even though they are hiring me to find out. I don’t normally mind when they say they already know the value because they “found it on the internet.”.  Many of them have it wrong or have searched incorrectly.  They see an “asking” price – a ridiculously high dollar figure that came from someone else’s head – which is now stuck in their head.  They would like to believe and hope that this is the value.

The responsibility for sharing valuation knowledge with clients falls to all estate experts.  We have to help clients set reasonable expectations.  Some people will heed what we have to say, while others will continue to believe that if it was valuable in 1982, it must be more valuable today.  These individuals are in for a rude awakening, resulting in anger and frustration which they will probably take out on the individual selling their items for them.

Who comes up with values?  Ultimately, it used to fall on the serious collectors who set trends and values.  Marketability and collect-ability are somewhat related.  If an item belongs to a category of objects that people desire and collect, then logically that item’s value increases.  However, we need to consider that the current market is fairly saturated with many of the collectibles that were highly sought after 20, 30, 40+ years ago, back when our parents’ generation paid top dollar for them.

Older “die-hard” collectors are passing away and selling their massive collections all at once.  We’ll look at how this complicates the market and depresses the values next week in “Perils of Preposterous Pricing, Part 2”.

©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 January 18, 2016 at 10:49 am  Comments (1)  
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The Gucci Purse

My holiday season was filled with the urge to purge.  I swept through the house like a cyclone, pulling things out to give away, sell, and discard.  My daughter didn’t know what to think and my husband kept asking, “Are you sure you want to get rid of that?”  If you feel like your home needs to be on a diet, you know exactly how I was feeling!

Today in our guest closet, I came across an authentic vintage Gucci purse my aunt purchased for my mother when she traveled to Rome about 45 years ago.  It was still in the original soft dust cover and is still like new.  It is burgundy in color and not really my style, but when mom died, I kept it.

Question #1 … “Why did I keep this?”

As I held it, inspecting its near “mint condition”, I wondered out loud why people hold on to things instead of actually using them.  I can hear echoes of mom’s voice saying something like, “Oh, that is a very expensive handbag and I will only wear it on very special occasions.”

That memory led me to question #2 … “Why wait for special occasions?”

Why not throw caution to the wind

and enjoy the heck out of what you have,

regardless of the season or the reason?

When mom was living, it was up on the top shelf of her closet collecting dust.  Funny how it ended up on my closet shelf collecting dust.  Why would I hold on to things if I get no use or enjoyment out of them?

This brought me to a decision that honestly needed to be made … Will I ever use it, and do I love it so much that I can’t let go?  NO and NO.

So the Gucci bag will be sold.  Someone I adored kept it and she never enjoyed it.  I never enjoyed it either.  So this purse has led a very dull life!

Someone SHOULD enjoy it, even if it isn’t me.

In almost every estate I work in, we find the drawers filled with linens and candles galore.  One day, my assistant said to me, as we were cleaning out a sideboard full of candles, “Wouldn’t it be a great idea if some of these people actually enjoyed using these things prior to their death?  YES, it would; otherwise, what’s the point?

I have come to the conclusion that I won’t miss a thing that left my home in the past two weeks.  My home has a new, light feel to it and I am enjoying that sensation.

Now if I would only shed a few pounds myself ….

©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 January 8, 2016 at 11:01 am  Comments (2)  
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5 Promises to Yourself This New Year

latest-happy-new-year-2016-photos

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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“B GR8FUL”

The license plate on the car in front of me during a long stretch of monotonous highway read,  “B GR8FUL.”  I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a personal reminder to me, or if it was meant for all who read it, spreading a positive message during what seem to be nutty, uncertain times.  All one has to do is turn on the news and feel that terrible “ugh” inside.

My husband and daughter were snoozing in the car, and I was pensive as usual behind the wheel, thinking about everything from the economy, to family, to work, to you name it.  I, like many of you, am worried about the state of our world and economy and where it will leave the different generations in the years to come.  Both young and old alike have many pressures these days.

I worry about my daughter’s future, which is probably normal for parents to feel.  I worry about my clients who are facing hard times, due to health or financial problems.  I seem to worry about things that I realize none of us have control over.  For me, I have found it best to stay close to family, dear friends, and my faith.

The worries seemed endless while I was driving.  Then I saw this simple license plate:  “BGR8FUL.”  There was an instant calm when I saw it, and I know that I needed to take those worries and transfer them into appreciation for all that we do have.  Because when you step back and look at the grand scheme of things, we really do have for very much to be “gr8ful” for.

GR8FUL

Blessings to you and your family this Thanksgiving, from my family and me.

©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 November 25, 2015 at 9:03 am  Comments (3)  
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