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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When a Change in Health Prompts a Change in Your Will

An estimated 50% of us have a will or trust!  This is not good news!

Most people have not yet comprehended (or accepted) that dying without a will is a very costly mistake that will negatively impact all you leave behind.  It’s not just about the hassles and frustrations your heirs will go through potentially for years, but the expenses involved.  Ultimately, the state you live in will make decisions regarding your estate that will not distribute it the way you would have chosen.  In a nutshell, get it done now and leave a legacy of respect, instead of resentment.

For those who do have a will, it is important to consider any changes in mental and physical health, as these could greatly impact the outcome of someone’s wishes.  For example, let’s say mom’s healthcare power of attorney states that dad makes all decisions for mom in the event she is incapacitated, vegetative state, etc.  Suddenly dad is exhibiting odd behavior and is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which is progressing rapidly.  Can he now make sound decisions for mom?  Or, mom may not think about these details and this is the time for the children to talk with her about it.

So many Boomer children don’t know how to talk with their parents about these delicate issues, so permit me to offer some very sound advice.  It has to be done; it has to be discussed, as painful as it is.  If left “under the carpet,” no answers will be available to you should they become infirm or die.  Get the answers now, and do so with love and compassion.

Here’s one example: “Mom, we were thinking about yours and dad’s situation.  Now that dad is showing a decline in health, new decisions have to be made and documented so your wishes are fulfilled the way you would like them to be.  Dad is no longer capable of understanding complex issues, and you will need to choose a new healthcare power of attorney, so we can ensure the correct decisions will be made.  Can you please give this some thought?  Can we make an appointment with your attorney to have this changed soon?

This one example really gets you thinking.  Anytime there is a significant change in your life or a parent’s life, consider discussing with an elder law or estate planning attorney.  Being proactive isn’t always easy or pleasant, but it can head off gut-wrenching issues that will occur at some point, especially if you have elderly loved ones.  Making sound decisions in the midst of crisis is not the optimal time to think clearly.

Lead with love, and start communicating while you can!

©2013 The Estate Lady®

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

Getting Your Affairs in Order is Not Just for the Elderly

In years gone by, I can recall that the majority of my clients were the elderly looking for help downsizing.  Somewhere around 2003, that all changed and the calls coming into my office were coming from children looking for help handling their parents’ estates after they passed away or help cleaning out their estates.

Today, things have shifted once again.  While I still work with the elderly occasionally, and certainly work with the boomer children who are the majority of my business, I see an ever-increasing (and hair-raising) trend of hearing from younger children whose parents have died unexpectedly in their 50s and 60s.

We all seem to be programmed that infirmity and death only occur in old age.  Sadly, this is not the case.  Perhaps it is wishful thinking on our part, or not wanting to think about it at all.  But in my work, I am seeing more and more of my deceased clients are eerily close to my own age, and I never thought of myself as being old.  I find myself thinking about my clients, and what they are going through, because most of their parents don’t take the time to plan ahead, especially when they are still relatively young.  This throws the grieving children into more of a tail-spin because they may not have had “The Talk.”

Many children do not know what their parents’ final wishes are, nor how the estate is to be divided.  They don’t even know if the parents have a Will or Trust.  These are HUGE issues that weigh heavily on those left behind.

Estate Lady Tips:

  1. Don’t do that to your children or beneficiaries.  You are mortal and a plan has to be shared with loved ones.  While you may not want to discuss this, you will feel much better after you do, and your children will thank you for it.  They will be especially grateful when the time comes, realizing the care you took ahead of time to make their lives easier.  Make an appointment to have a Will/Trust drawn up this week.
  2. Don’t die in debt.  This is a horrid situation.  Suffice it to say you create a nightmare for those dealing with your estate.
  3. Ask for an addendum to your Will so you can assign who gets what.  Better yet, give it away while you are still living so there is less to fight about after you are gone.
  4. Start clearing out your home now, even if you are young.  Don’t let it accumulate or it will snowball on you.  gain control of the house (and the piles of stuff we all have) and start clearing out.  Once a month, drop off items to a charity, or arrange for them to come to the house for a pick up.  Have yard sales for a little extra spending money.  If you haven’t seen it or used it in a year, let it go.
  5. Talk to your spouse and children about what you want.  Both of my parents died without much warning.  It’s a good thing they told us what they wanted and had the legal documents to back up their wishes.  When the time came (and it did when I least expected it), I knew exactly what to do.  I can still hear mom telling me, “Dad and I don’t want you to go through any more than you have to, because you will be going through enough when the time comes.  We want to make this as easy as possible on you, and we have made these decisions ahead of time to remove additional stress placed on you.”  This was music to my ears, not fully understanding the massive impact until I had to make a life and death decision for one of them.  I still can’t believe how much love they had for us.

These are not easy things to do.  Doing them sooner, rather than later, will change the way you think about these issues and make it much easier for you and your family in the future.  Take it from one who sees this trouble everyday.

Resources from the Estate Lady:

©2013 The Estate Lady®

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

A Change in Your Health Can Mean a Change in Your Will

An estimated 50% of us have a will or trust!  This is not good news!

Most people have not yet comprehended (or accepted) that dying without a will is a very costly mistake that will negatively impact all you leave behind.  It’s not just about the hassles and frustrations your heirs will go through potentially for years, but the expenses involved.  Ultimately, the state you live in will make decisions regarding your estate that will not distribute it the way you would have chosen.  In a nutshell, get it done now and leave a legacy of respect, instead of resentment.

For those who do have a will, it is important to consider any changes in mental and physical health, as these could greatly impact the outcome of someone’s wishes.  For example, let’s say mom’s healthcare power of attorney states that dad makes all decisions for mom in the event she is incapacitated, vegetative state, etc.  Suddenly dad is exhibiting odd behavior and is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which is progressing rapidly.  Can he now make sound decisions for mom?  Or, mom may not think about these details and this is the time for the children to talk with her about it.

So many Boomer children don’t know how to talk with their parents about these delicate issues, so permit me to offer some very sound advice.  It has to be done; it has to be discussed, as painful as it is.  If left “under the carpet,” no answers will be available to you should they become infirm or die.  Get the answers now, and do so with love and compassion.

Here’s one example: “Mom, we were thinking about yours and dad’s situation.  Now that dad is showing a decline in health, new decisions have to be made and documented so your wishes are fulfilled the way you would like them to be.  Dad is no longer capable of understanding complex issues, and you will need to choose a new healthcare power of attorney, so we can ensure the correct decisions will be made.  Can you please give this some thought?  Can we make an appointment with your attorney to have this changed soon?

This one example really gets you thinking.  Anytime there is a significant change in your life or a parent’s life, consider discussing ith an elder law or estate planning attorney.  Being proactive isn’t always easy or pleasant, but it can head off gut-wrenching issues that will occur at some point, especially if you have elderly loved ones.  Making sound decisions in the midst of crisis is not the optimal time to think clearly.

Lead with love, and start communicating while you can!

© 2011 Julie Hall

7 Estate Tips for You This Fall

Now that school is back in session and Labor Day is over, it’s time for us all to get back into our routines which we abandoned in the heat of the summer.  Here are 7 tips that I want you to add to your routine this fall and winter.

  1. Make sure you and your spouse have a Will/Trust/legal documents.  Better than 50% of us don’t have one, leaving our heirs to fight and “guess” our wishes and intentions.  Dissolving an estate is not the time for guesswork
  2. Make sure someone knows the location of these legal and other important papers, such as life insurance, financial information, as well as computer passwords and keys to safe deposit box.
  3. Simplify your estate by starting to get rid of your own stuff now.  Clean out the garage, attic, and closets — we have too much stuff!  By doing this now, your kids won’t be angry with you later for leaving them a big mess.  We  only use the same 20% of what we have anyway … Reduce!
  4. If something new comes into the house, two things have to exit, whether it be for charity, selling it, etc.  Avoid the clutter that comes from constant buying.  Think “simple and easy.”
  5. Have that courageous conversation with your spouse or children (if they are old enough).  Tell them your wishes for the future, then go the distance and document all this so they have a guidance system when the time comes.
  6. Consider gifting heirlooms and other important items while you are still living.  This minimizes future fighting, and you have the joy of seeing the recipient’s face when they receive their gift.
  7. Always hire a personal property appraiser for items of value in your own home or your loved one’s estate.  Only then can equitable distribution take place.

Next week, I’ll give you 6 tips for your parents’ estates.

© 2010 Julie Hall

The Simple Process of Preparing a Will

I want to follow up last week’s true story about Carolyn with some simple information about why you need a will.  I know what you are thinking right now … “I’m young and in perfect health; why do I need to rush and prepare a will?”  No one is guaranteed the length of their days on earth; accidents and illness can come suddenly.  A will is necessary even if you feel you have nothing of value.  You probably have sentimental items that you wish to give to specific heirs.

Preparing a will is a fairly simple process that doesn’t have to be any more complicated or time-consuming than going out to lunch with a friend.

A last will and testament is a legal document that gives clear instructions about what to do with your property after your death and how death taxes, if any, are to be paid, along with final expenses that would include any debt and administrative costs.  It states who is to receive the property and in what amounts. 

A will may also be used to name a guardian for any minor children or to create a trust to handle an estate inheritance to protect spendthrift children or others.  Finally, and this is important in the case of your parents, a will can be used to name a personal representative or executor to handle property and affairs from the time of death until an estate is settled.

You do not have to hire an attorney to make out a will, though I highly recommend it.  The law is multifaceted, and all kinds of scenarios can erupt.  Depending on the complexity of the will, it will initially cost  a few hundred dollars to have an attorney explain your options and then draw up the document. 

But what Carolyn had written on notebook paper in her own handwriting could have served as a legal will if it were witnessed and notarized … and found.  When you consider the years and tears that your heirs and family will endure if you pass away without a  will, a few hundred dollars and a legal will becomes the most loving investment you can make in family harmony and peace.

© 2010 Julie Hall

Are You Ready?

Carolyn was 96 years old and had a lovely three bedroom home filled with antiques passed down from previous generations.  It was obvious that Carolyn and her predecessors had taken great pride in these heirlooms because they were in immaculate condition.  She had done everything right: she left all items in their original condition, she knew the history and stories that went with each piece, and she kept them out of direct sunlight and away from the heat vents.

I met Carolyn six months prior to her passing.  Her 2 children were present, and everyone wanted to know the values of Carolyn’s possessions from her mother’s and grandmother’s estates dating back to the 1850s.  Earlier, the children had spoken with me privately and told me their mother had not prepared a will and asked me to impress upon her the importance of doing so. 

As I examined each piece, I spoke with Carolyn about the importance of making out a will so she could determine what would happen to all of these valuable antiques, but Carolyn was adamant.  “I don’t need a will.  I’ve written on a piece of notebook paper my wishes for my children, and that’s good enough.  If it isn’t, then they can just fight over it.”  And so they would.  The children looked at me and grimaced.  They knew the complications that awaited them if their mother didn’t draft a legal will: potential years of red tape with hefty attorney fees.

Carolyn eventually passed away peacefully, but there was little peace for the family.  No one ever found the handwritten note, so it became a game of “Mom said I could have this,” and “No, she promised that to me.”  Sadly, it was years before the estate was settled, and no one was happy with the outcome.

I wish this story was the exception, but in my experience, it is the norm.  According to a Harris Interactive study, 55 percent of Americans have not bothered to see an attorney to prepare a will.  Have you???

How different would Carolyn’s passing have been for her family with a little more preparation and a visit to an attorney to make everything official!

© 2010 Julie Hall

Published in: on July 12, 2010 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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