Archives for February 2017

What To Do With All My Stuff? What To Do With All My Parent’s Stuff?

All the furniture, crystal, and china sets our dear old folks have acquired may have suited their needs just fine, but the baby boomers and Gen-Xers who stand to inherit it may find themselves overwhelmed. There’s often just so much stuff, and in many cases its value has diminished.

Not only can our parents’ stuff be hard to let go of when they pass on or move in to an assisted living facility, it can be impossible to sell.

This was the beginning of a article I recently read describing experiences a writer had gone through following the death of his father at 94-years. Unfortunately, the story isn’t unique. At some point, when working with a client, family, or caregiver, the issue of what to do with all the household items attached to our elders.

The definition of value is central to this discussion. The generation that experienced the Great Depression grew up with ration coupons. The idea of wasting anything is abhorrent. Prize possessions – crystal, china, silver, and front room furniture are no longer carry far less meaning (and value) to Baby Boomers, Millennials, or Gen-Xers.

Antiques, artwork, or tchotchkes do, not move a generation uninterested in working a lifetime to purchase a home, or living in that home for a lifespan. The recognition of real value – financial and emotional, of household items often results in despair for the elder. It is the catalyst of guilt, or avoidance, for adult children.

There is no one solution. Our recommendations include:

  • Identify one or two household items that are the most meaningful to family and friends and share those pieces.
  • Look for documentation (ownership, purchase, licenses, etc.) supporting family stories about a piece of artwork, jewelry, vehicles, and other pieces.
  • Learn and understand what not for profits will accept. It is important to understand that if a couch, for example, is worn or in disrepair, most not for profit organizations will accept it. For someone starting over, the notion something is better than nothing isn’t true.
  • What is selling on the open market? A silver tea set, for example that was expensive at purchase may not have any resale value if there is not a market to purchase it!

The bottom line is having purposeful conversations in advance, creating a plan, and gathering data is the best way to avoid family discord, depression, avoidance, and being overwhelmed.

Creating Order Out of Chaos Following the Death of an Elder

The days and months following a death are filled with high emotion, chaos, and a laundry list of ‘to do’s.’ There is little time for family, friends, or caregivers to grieve.  The weight of these to-s on the survivor’s shoulders is significant.  At this moment in time, the most immediate need is creating order out of chaos.

It begins with listening – understand what’s important and necessary. It begins by listening and understanding what is necessary to be accomplished. This includes, but not limited to:

  • Declutter, sort, and liquidate a residence.
  • Search for specific legal documents, treasures, and memories.
  • Household inventory with financial or personal value – value family may not be aware of or value family is mistaken about.
  • Referral and coordination of property liquidation, sale, distribution.

Handling assets, inventory, and meeting  the needs of a surviving spouse, caregivers, 0r family members during the days and weeks following a death requires empowering decision makers and engaging family and caregivers.

Recognizing limitations and assessing the real needs of a situation are also essential.  If there are health issuers of a serving spouse, those needs must be met.  Sorting and liquidating physical assets easily can become a full time job for a family  member or caregiver.  If someone does assume the role, what happens to their work in the interim?  Assessing time required and the best way to efficiently invest that time cannot be done within a climate of emotion, grief, and chaos.

The team supporting the surviving spouse or family typically includes an attorney, CPA, financial consultant, and others.  The inclusion of an elder project manager who assumes the responsibility of project manager and coordinator of physical assets will enable family to concentrate on what is important at this moment in time; and, ensure family wealth and assets are preserved through an efficient liquidation process.

The single greatest error made by family, caregivers, or untrained professionals is quickly discarding all contents of the residence.  Elders who have been housebound or have had any physical or behavioral illness hide money, documents, and other important items within the residence. Knowing how and where to uncover hidden treasures is a primary task – not to be taken lightly.

Each family manages death in their own unique way.  Common among all cultures, faiths, and communities is the need to grieve.  Asking for help with the tasks at hand when a death occurs is a strength.  It is recognition that life continues to move forward concurrent with the need to grieve.