You Don’t Have to Keep the Things to Remember the Love

Julie blog picture

Nearly 50 years have passed since this photo was taken.  Yet I can tell you the occasion and the color of my dress, shoes, beloved teddy bear, and dad’s sunglasses.  He seemed as large as life to me; every time I looked up at dad, I felt like I was staring into the sun.  His hands were big, rough, and strong.  Strong enough to discipline us kids when we needed it, strong enough to pick us up when we fell and guide us when we grew.  When he was old and fragile, we used to walk hand in hand, his being much smaller and bony with the ravages of time, in my own strong hands that I inherited from him.  We would walk and I would listen to his stories of long ago.

On this day in the photo, Dad had given me this teddy bear, my new best friend, donning 1960s style red and white pajamas.  If I recall the family story, dad bought it off the back of a truck in New York City where he used to work.  I didn’t care where he got it.  It was a gift from him.  That made it really special, even all these years later, and especially now that he’s gone.

I do not have a clear recollection of where Teddy ever ended up, whether it was to a younger cousin or given to the church yard sale, but that old bear was loved and brought me lots of joy.  A special memory shared between a father and a daughter!

I struggle sometimes on the inside when my heart is hurting because of loved ones that have passed, and how much I feel their loss.  They are truly missed.

Even though they are gone, their spirit – the essence of who they were – isn’t gone!

They walk with me each day in my thoughts and I hold them dear.  You have relatives like that too.

We don’t need to take all their stuff after they pass and load up our own homes and lives in order to remember them.  Their stuff is still just stuff.

What makes their stuff special is who owned it, who used it, who loved it, or who gave it!

There is a season for every thing.  Sometimes, it’s the season to give their things to others who can really use the stuff or really need it far more than we do.

I can’t speak for any of you; this photo and the memory attached to it are a gift to only me … a snippet of a moment in my life and my father’s.  I ask you, could there possibly be any tangible item more special than that?

A diamond ring will sparkle only as long as you are here to enjoy it.  Money, houses, or cars can’t go with you either.  But a special memory sits in the heart forever.  That, my friends, is exactly what you can take with you!

©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.

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Published in: on December 11, 2014 at 10:05 am  Comments (3)  
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The Haunting and the Healing

Humans can be haunted in many ways: their own fears, an unforgettable bad memory, or a visit from a ghost of the past.  Sometimes a wound is so deep, it has trouble healing because we keep things buried.  The hard part of being haunted is we may not know how to heal it.

I am haunted by a particular memory of my beloved father; I was very close to him.  Dad had dementia, and even through this experience, we remained close.  For all people and caregivers who deal with this beast called dementia, there is no instruction manual, no safe harbor that will provide concise answers and direction to make skilled, knowledgeable decisions.  All you can do is your best.

Dad got along just fine for a long time, until one day, he didn’t.  It all happened so fast.  The day before, we laughed, we ate, we talked and walked and shopped.  It was a good day.  By that midnight, the nurses started calling me.  Dad had declined rapidly — within hours.  A new drug the doctor kept recommending was given to him.  The doctor said it was time for him to take it, now that this decline was happening.  I was worried about all the drugs he was already taking.  Little did I know, this drug would claim his life a few short days later.  I did not know he had a sensitivity to it and feel responsible for what happened.  This is the haunting that I had been carrying.

Last night, I had the most vivid dream.  So vivid, I could see every detail as if I was wide awake and it was really happening.  I was standing inside a fishing boat on a very large, beautiful lake.  Fishing pole in hand, I cast my line and suddenly found myself tangled up in the line.  It looped around my shoulders, arms, neck, hands, and face.  The more I struggled to get free, the more entangled I became.  The line consumed me to the point I could barely move and panic set in.  It was as if I had been wrapped like a mummy with fish line.

Suddenly, my dad appeared right next to me in the boat.  He was wearing his favorite, old, beige windbreaker, blue and white plaid shirt (complete with mechanical pencils and sunglasses case in his pocket), navy ball cap, glasses, and baggy jeans.  He was holding a pair of wire clippers and he gently and slowly raised his hands, as if to tell me to calm down as he started clipping the fish line.

With a few snips, I was free.

Dad gathered the tangled fish line in his hands and threw it behind him, then turned and looked at me.  He said, “Jul, you don’t need that anymore.  Let it go.”  Just like that, he disappeared.

Wow, what a powerful message!  Dad was telling me to let my “haunting” go about the medication and what led to his demise.  He was telling me not to carry it anymore.

Was this apparition really dad who came to comfort me, God himself healing me, or a figment of my imagination?  I prefer to consider one of the first two.  Whomever it was, the experience left me with a great weight lifted.

©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.

Published in: on October 29, 2014 at 9:55 am  Comments (3)  
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Simple Things

At the end of a very long and taxing week, I felt like I would keel over from the fatigue of cleaning out a challenging estate several floors up in an affluent high-rise community.  There were many rules: you can’t use the elevator when …, you can’t come before this time, you can’t do any moving on weekends, you can only park here, etc.  The week just wore me out.  As luck would have it, there just happened to be a full moon.  One day when I came home dragging so badly, I spotted a buzzard sitting on the roof peak of my house looking down at me.  I just looked up at him and said, “I may look dead to you, but I’m still alive and kicking, buddy!”

Lately, everything seems to be so complicated.

Yesterday, a friend of mine came over for a visit and spotted a photo of my late father sipping on his favorite strawberry shake from Steak and Shake.  It was an impromptu photo I snapped because Dad looked so cute, like a little boy enjoying the heck out of a $3 shake, even though he was 82 years old.

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My friend commented, “This photo is the epitome of your dad!  This is how he should be remembered.”  That got me thinking about the simple things that we all overlook, especially when life gets complicated.

The estates I handle are seldom straightforward and easy.  Each has its’ own unique set of potential problems and logistics to solve, to make the job easier for everyone involved.  The “human” aspect of the work can often cause the flow to be interrupted.  Some clients are terrific and laid back; others have a lot going on that is hard to balance.  But, we love what we do and we do it well.

You know those challenging days that never seem to end.  You come home to a ton of phone calls, the teenager has a problem, your pet has a vet appointment, the lawn needs mowing, bills need paying … you have the feeling of “Calgon, take me away!”  Lately, I’m having many Calgon moments.

On my way home yesterday, ready to collapse on the sofa, I saw a young boy trying to walk his puppy on a leash.  It looked like the first time for both of them.  The puppy did not understand how the leash worked and the little boy could not understand why the puppy didn’t get it.  It was very comical to watch as the little boy talked to his puppy.  “Why can’t you just walk straight like other dogs?”  He said it with the tone of an innocent child, more inquisitive than angry.  All the puppy knew how to do was romp and lick him, which made the boy laugh.  They attempted their walk one more time with giggles and a wagging tail.

I realized that I actually had a big smile on my face, thinking this little snippet of a boy’s life was very cute, just like my father sipping on the strawberry shake.

Ahhh, the simple things.

What a big impact they make, if we just let them!

©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.

 

Published in: on October 18, 2014 at 11:15 am  Comments (2)  
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The Ring

Go ahead and get your tissue box now; I have mine on my lap as I write this.  Let me tell you a beautiful story.

An 80-year-old mother knew her health was failing, but she didn’t tell her children how bad it was really getting.  Her 82-year-old husband was afflicted with dementia; the disease was just starting to rear its ugly head and become too much for her to handle, seeing her beloved husband of 58 years slip away.

This mom and dad lived far away from their two children and grandchildren by choice.  All of their dearest friends were in Florida, and that is where they wanted to spend their golden years together.  The only problem was as the years passed, they watched all their friends get sick and pass away one by one, visiting each of them in the nursing homes and hospitals, saying their goodbyes.

Their family loved each other dearly and always remained close in heart through daily phone calls and emails, reminiscing and sending each other “remember whens.”  But it was time to call in help and the children intervened, trying to get them closer geographically.  Finally, mom agreed.  When the middle-aged daughter went for a visit to discuss options and make decisions, the mom again showed the daughter where all their trust and other legal papers were located, to make sure the kids knew where everything could be found.  How heartbreaking for the daughter to see her parents decline and become fragile, and equally hard for the mom to discuss her final wishes and personal thoughts with the daughter.

Bury me in this dress, call these people when I die, don’t spend a lot on flowers, etc…

It was a difficult day for mother and daughter; the deed was done and the day dragged long.

The mom got up and went into her bedroom and called the daughter in after her.  She presented her daughter with a ring, placing it in her hand and clasping her frail, weathered hand around her daughter’s, she spoke from her failing heart:

It’s yours now.  It’s time for you to keep this.  I remember when you were a little girl, no more than 5 or 6, you would sneak into our bedroom, open my jewelry box, and try this ring on when you thought no one was watching.  You would put it on your index finger, and it was so big for your tiny finger.  I was there watching.  Mothers always watch and know what’s going on with their children.  You loved this bauble then, and I hope you will remember this moment after I’m gone, because I want you to have this.  It isn’t worth much, but I always cherish the memory of how you would tiptoe into our room just to try it on, careful to put it back where you found it.  Wear it in good health, and may God bless you always for who you are, for the woman you have become, and for what you mean to me.  I love you very much and I’m so proud of you.

The daughter was speechless and choked up all at once, trying very hard to be brave, but it didn’t work.  She collapsed in front of her mother, knowing the message she was giving her: that she was dying and she had made peace with it.

Julie ring

This story is about my mother, Anne, who died not long after that day, and I was the little girl who adored the big, purple, shiny ring.  I will always cherish the ring because of the story behind it, because mom gave it to me in person, and because of the special words that went with it.  Mostly, it made me realize I carry her courage inside me; I hope one day I can pass that to my daughter (the ring and the courage).

I wear this ring any time I wear purple.  Each time I slip it on my finger, I think of mom handing it to me and how it fits perfectly on my finger now.

©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 Mother

What a very strange place to build a nest!  The top of our old, abandoned basketball hoop post is not exactly my idea of a safe place to raise babies, especially because the nest was built inside the open top of the pole hole.  It’s safe from most predators because it is 8 feet up in the air.  The parents take turns keeping watch so they are also safe from birds of prey as well.  But a long, hollow pole for a teeny, tiny nest?

Suddenly, my delight changed to concern.  I watched, completely fascinated, from inside my car parked in the driveway, as the tiny mom and dad dove down inside the top of this metal pole to feed the chirping babies.  It must get really hot in there for those babies, I thought to myself, especially here in the warm south with a temperature of 90 degrees yesterday.  What if the nest fell all the way to the bottom, inside the pole?

The sky turned gray and I heard a rumble of thunder.  The rain started as a trickle first, then gradually came down harder until it was a good downpour.  Still in my car, windshield wipers on full speed, I watched as the two parents emerged from the top of the pole, looking as if they were ready to take off.

Dad flew to the top of the hoop and stood guard, but it was what mother did next that made me wish I had my video camera handy.

With the delicate grace nature gives her, she balanced on the top rim of the opening as if she would go back in with her babies.  But instead, she hovered, extending her wings, stretching them as far as they would go and acting as an “umbrella” for her offspring.  Was she cleaning herself, using the rain to take a shower, or was she protecting her babies from potentially drowning?  I know nothing of birds or their habits, but it certainly looked like she was protecting them, with dad watching over his mate and babies.

It dawned on me that all good mothers do this.  As mothers, we spend at least 18 years of our lives with our wings extended, as if to say, “Nothing’s going to happen to my child with me here.”  We too have a natural instinct to surround, protect, keep safe, stand guard against anything bad that comes near our children.  We nag … they chirp.  We yell … they squawk.  We hug … they extend their wings.

We shelter our “babies” from sinking into a bad place, and if they do fall, we go down there with them and pull them back up.  It’s what moms do.  When the time is right, just like mother bird, we have to push them out of the nest too, so they can learn to be self-sufficient.  How else will they learn?

My mom is gone now, but somehow she is never too far away.  At times, I swear I can hear her whisper guidance in my ear, tell me she loves me and she’s proud of me, or remind me that each new day brings new things and not to be afraid of tomorrow.

My mom was just like that momma bird.  She protected us fiercely, and when the time was right, she let us fly, because she knew she had done her job correctly and prepared us for what lay in front of us.

I miss her so much it hurts.  Remember your mom this weekend and be ever mindful of all she did, has done, and will continue to do for you in life as well as in death.  If she is still living, there is a huge blessing in that.  And if she has passed on, the blessing now sits inside of you for having known her.

God bless all mothers everywhere!

©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

Published in: on May 9, 2014 at 6:46 pm  Comments (5)  
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“Promise Me …”

(A powerful blog for those with parents who have not yet planned ahead)

An elderly mother says to her son, “Promise me you will never put me in a nursing home.  It’s so depressing.  Promise me you will never do that.”

The middle-aged son says:

Promise me that you will make plans now, so I won’t have to later under duress.

Promise me that we will discuss this now, instead of at a time when it is either too late, or I will have to make excruciating decisions in a crisis mode.

Promise me that you will give this much thought.

Promise me that you will love us both enough to do this now, so I know YOUR wishes and they can be fulfilled as closely as possible.  Research assisted living facilities.  Research home health organizations.  Have a plan in place we can both use.

Share your plan WITH me.

Promise me all of these things, so I can live the remainder of my life, knowing I honored you the best way that I could, knowing we had full and open communications, knowing we talked about the “what if’s.”

And lastly, promise me that you will never ask me again to promise you what you just asked of me.  For without any direction or guidance from you, I will be guessing, and guessing is not what you want me to do with your life hanging in the balance.  I don’t want to guess either, wondering if I’ve made the right decisions.

Guessing will only lay guilt at my feet and weigh heavily upon my shoulders.

If/when a crisis occurs, I will not be thinking straight.  I will not be myself.  I will not fully understand the ramifications of my decisions.  I will be stunned and emotional.  I will look and act like a zombie going through the motions.  I will be confused and overwhelmed by medical staff saying things I don’t understand, and family members questioning my every move.  Promise me you won’t do that to me.

By thinking about this now and deciding on what YOU want, we can put a plan together so there is no guessing.  Saying “I love you” isn’t enough sometimes.  Doing all of these things and preparing for that day ahead of time is a gift of pure love.

I will cherish and honor you for this gift, both now, as well as in my future.  Thank you for protecting my soul, mom, dad.  Thank you for loving me that much!

©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

 

Published in: on April 22, 2014 at 9:17 am  Comments (10)  
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Ode to the Gardener – Important Life Lessons

Not so long ago, I stood by my father’s side witnessing the ever-advancing damage of dementia.  I knew deep inside that our time together was growing short from a cognitive perspective, but I never once took into consideration that he, himself, would be taken so quickly.  Dad was a Master Gardener who dedicated his life to understanding the soil, composting, plant diseases and cures, etc.

Dad volunteered 20,000 hours of his senior years teaching children in elementary, middle, and high schools how to nurture and grow vegetables, how to be more self-sufficient, how to be responsible, how to be part of something bigger than yourself.  He also went into prisons, as he wanted to give them a sense of hope and accomplishment.  Dad was sent a gold lapel pin award from President Bush, honoring his 20,000 hours of volunteering, and he was so proud of that pin.

When dad and I were in the garden together, he used to say there was no therapy better than sticking your hands in the earth and being a part of nurturing a plant to maturity, taking a back seat to mother nature, of course.  Little did I know, I would inherit his love for gardening and his green thumb as well.

There are many life lessons to be learned from gardening.  Below are several listed from Adam McCane’s site, which I really like; I just tweaked them a bit for purposes of this blog.

  1. What you water grows.  This simply means that we need to pay attention to ensure we are watered throughout life.  It is the most basic need we have, for without it, we would perish.  So will our plants that feed us, if we don’t take care of them or the earth.
  2. Weed regularly.  Weeds are deceptive.  You won’t notice them starting, but before you know it, they are choking out your veggies, stealing water and nutrients from your plants, and reproducing.  The rule in the garden is simple: If you see a weed, pick it!  The same is true for life.  Weeds and other “undesirables” have a way of creeping in on us.  We need to be mindful that we do not need any weeds in our lives, literally or figuratively.  Get rid of them and don’t feel bad about it.  All of us are tired of dealing with the weeds!
  3. Sharing the harvest.  It’s all about abundance, whether you are sharing veggies, flowers, time, care, love, etc.  Share what you have an abundance of and pay it forward.  It always finds its way back.
  4. Plant in the right season.  For everything, there is a time and purpose.  Sometimes, it is beyond our understanding.  I believe we reap what we sow.  Maybe it’s time to plant better, more productive things in our lives.  Feed your spirit by allowing only good things into your life now.  If you see things rotting, infested, etc., you will need to tend to them by getting rid of them, or proactively healing them.  TIme and nature will tell you which one it will be.
  5. Space is required for growth.  It’s hard to imagine how much room a vegetable is going to need when you grow it from seed or buy a seedling that is in a 5-inch pot.  Sometimes they grow so fast and thick, they can choke out other plants.  Giving a plant plenty of space is important for the health of the plant, so it receives plenty of sunshine and nutrients.  Providing this space will ensure our plants will be healthy, productive, and have plenty of breathable space.  We need to do this for ourselves and give that gift to others too.
  6. Pruning is necessary for abundance.  Cutting, pinching, or picking off dead leaves, branches, poor or weak fruit is necessary for the growth of the healthy fruit.  Vineyard pruners do this every day.  They know exactly how to cut the vine to promote healthy grapes.  While it may look harsh to see so much being removed, it gives the healthy portions of the plant more nutrients to produce the best fruit.  Sometimes, we need to look at ourselves the same way and learn how to prune ourselves by letting go of things that no longer serve our well-being and our highest good.

WP_002044 (2)Dad’s old garden hat is still hanging next to mine on a hook in my laundry room.  Every time I head out to the garden, Dad accompanies me in spirit.  I kept his watering can,  his old worn leather gloves, his t-shirts.  Those things were my father and how I remember him best.  I can still hear his voice guiding me in the stillness of my own vegetable patch.  Much of his advice to me through life also applies to the lessons of raising a successful garden, whatever “garden” we may be cultivating at any given time.

 

©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

5 Minutes

In the span of a 24 hour day, what’s 5 minutes?  It’s grabbing a quick snack before you head out the door, feeding your cat, texting your best friend, or checking your email.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s certainly not much.  Our lives are so busy; we barely notice.  But often, they are full of things that are mundane and perhaps not all that important; they simply keep us busy.  That 5 minutes comes and goes without a care, never to be experienced again in quite the same way.

To some people, 5 minutes is an eternity:  a soldier who sees their life flash before their eyes, a lady waiting to find out if she’s pregnant, a young child waiting for Christmas morning, or holding a loved one’s hand while they’re dying.

If you were given 5 minutes to do, or re-do, anything you wanted to, any time, anywhere, or any place, what would you do and would you do anything differently?

If I had 5 minutes, just 5 measly minutes, for a chance to do anything I wanted, I would choose to visit with my mother again.  Throughout the course of our lives, she and I talked a lot about a lot.  I was the last person to talk with her before she passed suddenly, and our parting words to each other, without knowing she was going to die, were simply “I love you.”  But if I had that wish and just 5 minutes more, I would have told her exactly what she meant to me, how blessed I was to have known her and have her as my mother, and that I would do everything I could to live by her kind and caring example.  Everyone loved Anne.  She was one of the nicest people on the planet and my world lost its color the day she passed.

I would do all of this, if I had 5 minutes more with her … complete with a long and loving hug.  But I don’t have any minutes with her anymore.

What’s 5 minutes to you?

Is there someone in your life right now where 5 minutes (just 5 tiny minutes) could heal your life and theirs?  Take the 5 minutes I no longer have and do something really good with it.

It is a gift!

©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

To Honor in Death as Much as in Life

Call me old-fashioned.  Call me a twentieth century throw-back.  It is apparent to me each time I meet a client, pick up the latest gadget, or look in the mirror, that I came from a different time.  It’s more than okay because I really liked the twentieth century, and I’m proud to have grown up at that time.

Mom and dad are gone now.  Their absence is felt daily, evidenced by the huge hole in my heart and tears that well up in my eyes every time I think about how much they are missed.  I am certain you can relate.  I was one of the lucky ones who grew up under the strict, but loving guidance of two traditionalists.

They taught me right from wrong, disciplined me when I strayed off course, enforced curfews, taught me to prepare for what was ahead, and instilled that “this too shall pass.”  They were even “realists” when it came to death.  My own mother, with her fantastic sense of humor, sent me a coffin brochure, asking me if she would look better in the copper rose or the warm mahogany!  It is good to laugh when you feel like crying.  There’s just no way to fill a hole THAT big, so I fill it in other ways.

I want to live my life in such a way that it touches others, serves others, relieves others.  I want to make a difference.  Isn’t that what we all want?  All we need is a little tenacity and courage to do it.  Encouraging others to love and honor does not end with death.  If anything, it gets magnified.  Since they were proud of you (and vice versa) in life, shouldn’t that continue even after they’ve passed?  Imagine living your life in such a manner, that you not only make yourself proud, but your departed loved ones too.

So too, I guide my clients through the process of dealing with their parents’ estates.  Whatever decisions you make, make them in such a way that pleases you and would honor them too.  Turning the other cheek is far  from easy, but often necessary.

Corny?  20th century?  Something out of “Leave it to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best?”  You bet!

And I’m darn proud of that too!

©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