Currently, there are 100+ million Boomers who are preparing to deal with clearing out their parents’ estate, suddenly faced with the reality of “Oh my gosh, where do I begin?”
No reality TV show can take the place of what these children and heirs are experiencing. It is real, it is paralyzing and if you are not ready, “it” will zap you right between the eyes and leave you dazed and confused.
Ask any number of my clients and they will share with you the overwhelming and often crushing task of clearing out their parents’ home. It is wrought with highly charged emotions — and often, unpleasant behaviors — that come from close-knit families, as well as estranged. They experience greed, entitlement and contention. For those who simply refuse to allow the greed and poor behaviors to take precedence, these are the people who will make it through; they will be worn out, but certainly wiser and more willing to plan for the next generation.
The Depression Era generation is known for keeping most everything – from Cool Whip containers, tin pie plates, mason jars —draws full of bread twister ties, rubber bands, pencil nubs, tin foil, plastic bags, old coupons, you name it and it may be found in their home. Many feel this mindset is one of practicality and wisdom since they survived the Great Depression, and we can certainly learn a lot from them about resourcefulness. But how will this affect their Boomer children when they are the ones who are left to deal with it all after the loss of their loved one? This is what I call “Inheriting Clutter.”
Boomers lives are energetic. They travel, work hard, and most of the time do not live in the same neighborhood as their parents. Many adult children are geographically remote and must either drive many hours or fly in to handle their parent’s estate. Along with this immense undertaking is looking at a possibility of taking a leave of absence from work, time away from their homes, children and spouses. The level of frustration and strife it brings on a marriage is much tougher than people realize unless they have already been through it or have planned ahead for it.
Once the children walk into the estate, the first thought that usually emerges is “What do I do with all of this stuff? How do I know what it’s worth? What do I donate, sell, keep or throw away?”
This is just the tip of the iceberg. The search will then commence for financial records, personal papers, unpaid bills, life insurance (if there was any), the Will (if there is one because 50% of us don’t have one) and a multitude of other things they must literally search for and find.
It’s a frightening proposition for many Boomer children. It is important to emphasize that with a little pre-planning prior to mental or physical infirmity and several upfront discussions between mom and dad and the children, a great deal of peace can be offered to the family. Important, yet a little scary too, it can force us all out of our comfort zone.
Suddenly we find ourselves reversing roles with our parents. The children sometimes feel awkward bringing up questions about the Will, distribution of heirlooms, finances, and their final wishes. However, the entire process will go much smoother before — as well as after — the loss of a loved one, if you actually get the answers from your parent(s).
Ask for direction from your parent(s) and feel confident in your knowledge of what their wishes are. Find out where their Will is, or if they don’t have one, help them find an estate planning attorney and arrange an appointment.
In the eyes of many, one of the most important aspects of this process is the division of personal property – who gets what? A little talking now can go a long way in preventing squabbling among the heirs after mom and dad pass away.
For peaceful resolutions and practical guidance, check out my new book, Inheriting Clutter – How to Calm the Chaos Your Parent’s Leave Behind. It also makes a great gift for clients, siblings, parents and children of all ages.
© 2020 The Estate Lady®
Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is a nationally recognized personal property expert who has assisted thousands of individuals across the country in the daunting and often painful process of managing their deceased loved one’s possessions. Her new book, “Inheriting Clutter: How to Calm the Chaos Your Parents Leave Behind” is now available in ebook, audiobook and paperback editions wherever books are sold.