By Julie Hall (The Estate Lady)
Reviewed by: Anne Holmes for the NABBW
Having worked with thousands of clients over the past two decades in her capacity as “The Estate Lady,” a leading national authority on conducting estate sales, personal property appraisals, liquidations and removal of home contents, Hall now comes to your rescue with this book, written to guide you on how to properly handle disposal of your parent’s belongings. After all, as she says, the hearse doesn’t come with a trailer hitch.
Her goals in writing the book are to help you:
- Divide your parents’ estate with peace of mind
- Minimize fighting with siblings during the estate settlement process
- Clear out the family home in ten days or less
- Identify potential items of value in the home
- Have “that conversation” with your parents
- Prepare your own children for the future
The book is written for us as adult children who will have to liquidate our parents’ estates, but she thoughtfully includes special sidebars in each chapter which are written to highlight information of special interest to your parents. In a special “Note to Older Parents” in her Author’s Note, Hall comments that these sidebars highlight actions she urges older parents to take now, as a gift to their children.
A typical note says:
Parents, remember this one important rule: what you do for one child, you must do for all of them to keep everyone on the same page, at the same time. For example, if you offer one child an heirloom worth $5,000 then you must offer your other children or heirs items of equal value or the equivalent amount of cash. And make sure that all of your wishes are known to all your children or heirs, not just to the executor of your estate, unless you have personal reasons to withhold any of them. By doing so, you are promoting a fair environment for all involved.
She also urges parents to try to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings as they age by sitting down with your children and having a frank discussion about things that are not easy to talk about, such as:
- What should your children do if you and your spouse become seriously incapacitated and can no longer manage in your own home
- What measures do you wish your children to request from medical professionals should you become incapacitated and your physician does not think you will recover
- Who do you wish to make important decisions for you if you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and experience confusion and memory loss
- What specific requests do you have for your funeral or other last wishes
As I have been working with my mother on some of these decisions over the past couple of years, I appreciate that Hall has put these recommendations in writing. None of us wants to think about having to liquidate and distribute our parent’s assets, and all of us have heard horror stories of families torn apart by the tasks of settling a parental estate.
The fifteen chapters in this book, along with four valuable appendices – including a sample wish list spreadsheet, helpful resources, a parent care checklist and a list of documents and information that ought to be located and kept in a convenient place – make this book a “must read” for all Boomers. After all, as Ben Franklin said, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.”