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Author: Tim ZeiglerConsignment Donating Downsizing Estates Executors Keepsakes

Personal Property “in Motion”

Wagon loaded with belongings on the open road.

Personal property is “in motion” when there is a need to deal with your movable personal possessions. Items include furnishings, art, antiques, jewelry, and collections — often referred to as “stuff.” 

What puts Personal Property in Motion?
• Moving & down-sizing living space
• Selling a local home to move full-time to a vacation home
• Inheriting items when your home is already full
• Deciding to sell a personal collection
• Making a decorating/design change or upgrade
• Getting organized to deal with stuff which has accumulated over the years
• Settling an estate

Suggestions for dealing with emotions when Property is in Motion
• Pictures can help retain the memory of items. Remembering special rooms, spaces, items, and collections through picture albums can help minimize the sense of loss. The pictures, when stored and retrieved electronically, take up no physical space.
• Providing family and friends with the opportunity to acquire items helps in many cases. Passing along sentimental items, in this way, often feels good.
• Recognize it is now normal when family and friends are not interested in many of your furnishings and treasures. Unfortunately, I see this in the majority of people I have worked with in recent years. It helps to not take it personally. When this happens, it is time to sell, donate, or dispose.

possessions

Identifying and selling valuable personal property:
• Unfortunately, what you or your family paid for items does not matter to buyers.

• The buyers are generally significantly younger than the sellers. Current market value is driven by what buyers demand.
• When you look to sell valuables directly to a buyer, knowing the current market value is helpful in setting and negotiating a fair price.
• Auctions are an efficient way to deal with significant amounts of personal property in motion efficiently; there are auctions available at every level.
• Higher-end auction houses are an efficient resource in identifying valuable items and their market value; there is generally no charge for this service.
• When selling valuables at auction, it is important to use an auction house which regularly offers similar items. They will have established clientele and attract strong bidders.

Very often, a handful of the most valuable personal property items are worth as much as everything else (you’d hoped to sell) combined. When this happens, half of the financial work in handling the property in motion is complete, simply by identifying and selling the most valuable items. 

The process of dealing with property “in motion” brings out emotion. There are memories attached to belongings which connect us to our family, friends, and occasions throughout our lives. While the process may have emotional ups and downs, it feels good when it is complete. I wish you well.   

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Author: Colleen WarminghamEstates Executors Organizing Productivity Seniors & Aging

Help! I Fear Inheriting a Mess

PapersOnDesk“How can I make my parents organize their papers? They gave me power of attorney and named me as executor, but I don’t know where anything is.” I receive phone calls like this several times each year. The caller is usually fearful, frustrated, and worried about the state of the parents’ affairs.
Each time I hear this question, or one like it, I’m reminded of the old lightbulb joke:
Q: How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Only one, but the lightbulb has to want to change.

The same is true for a disorganized loved one – they have to want to change their situation. But even though we can’t make them change, there are a few things we can do to pave the way for them to request help.

First, a few things to remember:

  • Your parents probably already know their affairs aren’t in order.
  • Your parents likely worry about the situation you will inherit.
  • Your parents might feel overwhelmed. If they are dealing with health issues, they may feel too tired to face the pile of papers.

In short, your parents likely feel some level of embarrassment or vulnerability. To be successful, you will need to be sensitive to their discomfort, and respect their pace. Here is the sequence I recommend to clients who are preparing to assume their parents’ affairs:

  • Don’t mention the piles
    I know, that seems like not talking about the elephant in the room. But your parent already knows the papers are there, and it doesn’t help to start the conversation on a negative note.
  • Listen for the hurt
    Does your parent ever mention the disorganization? When the children stop bringing it up, the parent often will start. Rather than jumping in immediately, listen for your parent’s emotion. Does your parent say things like “I’m confused about which bills have been paid,” or “I’m sorry the kitchen table is a mess?” These are indications of where your parent’s stress is, and a clue to where help is most needed.
  • Empathize
    Don’t jump to solutions yet. Just reflect the emotion. “It sounds like you’re worried about the bills” lets your parent know that it’s safe to talk about the problem with you. Don’t rush this step! Your parent may need to consider several different angles.
  • Get practical
    It’s best to wait until your parent indicates interest in addressing the practical side of their problem. They might say “It would take too much time to clean this up,” or “I don’t know where to start.” Now you can gently begin to explore some solutions. Keep it small, and keep it simple. You’re more likely to inch the process forward with “Why don’t I help you open today’s mail?” than “I’ll bring the grandkids over on Saturday and we’ll whip the whole garage into shape!” Take your cue from the pain points your parent has already mentioned, even if it means ignoring an area you think is more pressing.
  • Leverage your success
    Celebrate your first win, regardless of how small it is. After you open that pile of mail together, enjoy a treat together. Maybe go to lunch, or watch a favorite TV show. This puts you back at Step 1 – Don’t mention any remaining piles, and listen for the next pain point.

It might take a few iterations to build some momentum with your parent. The key is to respect your parent’s preferred pace. In time, your parent may trust you enough to delegate work to you, or let you hire a professional organizer.

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Author: Colleen WarminghamDonating Estates Executors Family

Sorting out your parents’ estate

Will“I’m cleaning out my parents’ home and coming across lots of items with sentimental value, how do I decide what to keep?” A friend asked me this question recently. Like so many of us will do in our middle years, she’s facing the dual challenge of grieving while dispersing all of her parents’ possessions. If she’s also the executor of her parents’ estate, she’ll have bills, paperwork, and the responsibility of staging and selling the home as well. It’s a lot to handle at a fragile time. The key to getting through this is to do it in waves, as you have the time and energy.

Below are some suggestions on how to handle the process.

Remove items associated with your parents’ illness. Unless the death was sudden, there’s likely some assortment of medications and medical equipment. Getting these out of the way first will help you release the more recent painful memories and make space for joyful memories to surface. Check Earth911 for places that will accept these items. Some charities and thrift stores, such as Care & Share Thrift Shoppes in Souderton, PA  accept medical equipment.

Locate and have the executor disperse any property according to your parents’ wills. If you can’t find some of the items, make a list and leave it in a prominent location. You’ll likely come across the remaining items as you continue to work through the house.

Give away or donate everyday items that don’t hold any particular sentimental value. Usually a fair amount of clothing, kitchen items, books, knick-knacks, small furniture, linens, and items in deep storage (attic/garage/basement) fall into this category. Continue to keep any individual items that you’re unsure about.

At this point, most of what will be left has a chance of being important to you or your family. If you have the luxury of time, invite your relatives to your parents’ home for a ‘claiming memories day‘. Disperse any remaining items mentioned in the will, and open everything else to be given away as keepsakes. The executor may want to set some parameters for this, such as taking turns. Many families find that storytelling naturally emerges from this process. You’ll probably have a lot of tears and laughter. Don’t rush; it’s a precious part of the healing process.

Can you give yourself a little more time at this point? If so, take a break. You’ve fulfilled the requirements of the will, disposed of unnecessary items, and preserved the most important memories. More often than not, some rest and a return to your normal schedule will restore your resilience, stamina, and creativity.

When you’re ready to return to your parents’ home, it probably won’t feel so emotionally charged or overwhelming. You’ll have the confidence of knowing that you won’t accidentally destroy a precious artifact, stumble across an unpleasant memory, or be overwhelmed with unimportant things. In short, you’ll be dealing with the middle ground of your parents’ possessions.

As you work your way through these remaining items, ask yourself a few questions:
-Do I need this to stage the house?
-If I take it home, would I definitely use it?
-Do I know anyone who could use this?
-What charities did my parents support? Do they accept donations?

You’ll likely end up donating or giving away most of these final items. Keep reminding yourself that you already saved the most important things. As the house empties, you may be sad. That’s healthy. Do the work that is easier for you and harder for your family, and ask them to do the same for you. Be gentle with yourself and each other.

Most importantly, cherish your memories as they are the most important thing you’ll keep.

Author: Suzanne KuhnClutter Document Management Donating Estates Executors Family Filing General Project Management Receipts Tax Prep

All About Executors

A picture of a Will for Suzanne Kuhn's postIf you are reading this, chances are that you will need an executor and/or will be an executor at some point in your life. An executor is the person named in a will to administrate the estate of the person who died leaving that will. The job of the executor is to make sure that the deceased person’s wishes, as described in the will, are carried out.
Here are some of the tasks executors perform:

  • Inventorying the assets of the deceased: cash money, financial investments, real estate, collections of valuable objects, the contents of a home, as well as personal articles such as clothing and jewelry (this collection of assets is known as “the estate”).
  • Obtaining contact information for far-flung beneficiaries and heirs named in the will, as well as notifying them.
  • Identifying any outstanding debts of the deceased person and paying them off. Working with banks and other financial institutions to transfer money from living accounts to estate accounts.
  • Calculating the taxes due on the estate, filing the estate tax return, and paying those taxes on time.
  • Assisting an attorney, accountant, or other professional associated with the will.
  • Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries and heirs after all the above has been completed, and disposing of what remains.

These tasks can be complex, full of “red tape” and frustrating, so it is important to choose the right person for the job.

A good executor is:

  • Detail-oriented
  • Comfortable with numbers
  • A good problem-solver
  • Willing to make decisions
  • Patient when faced with frustration
  • Able to be fair and impartial with family members and other heirs
  • Available to spend the considerable time it can take to administer an estate

Too often, people making a will choose their executor based on family dynamics or out of a wish to bestow an ‘honor’ on a special person in their life. They give little consideration to the personal traits and skills needed by the executor, with disastrous results. As a professional organizer specializing in finances and paperwork, I have witnessed these horror stories when the wrong person was chosen for the job of executor:

  • The sibling who was emotionally closest to the parent was chosen as executor. The executor was impatient and unable to be impartial; emotional blowups were frequent during the distribution of the estate, and assets were distributed first to the executor and then to the ‘squeaky wheel’ among the heirs.
  • The will-maker chose the child who had pursued the same career, believing this ensured the necessary qualifications to be an executor. But this executor lacked the time to administer the estate and was easily frustrated when faced with red tape. The will-maker died five years ago and the estate is still not wrapped up.
  • An executor with a lifelong fear of math procrastinated with the numbers and details of the estate, potentially missing tax deadlines and paying penalties and interest as a result.

The key take-away from this post is to choose your executor carefully, based on the skills needed to do the job. But perhaps, you have already chosen an executor who lacks some of these skills, and you don’t want to make waves by changing. Or maybe, you have been named as someone’s executor and feel unqualified for the job. In either case, don’t despair, because help is available. Professional organizers can help inventory the deceased person’s possessions, and can help sell and/or donate possessions not inherited by a specific individual. Some organizers specialize in the organizing of finances, paperwork and information, and can help with these aspects of the executor’s job. A good place to find an organizer to help with the administration of an estate is the ‘Find an Organizer’ link at www.napo-gpc.org.