Tag Archives: inheritance

Does anybody want your parents’ stuff?

thN5NI330OWhen my father died (my mother had predeceased him), I was charged with cleaning out his condo.  There were all sorts of things stuffed in drawers and closets that I’m sure had value…but I didn’t want.  Ditto for my brother.  There was also a lot of antique furniture – probably worth some money but definitely not fitted to our life styles.  Dad never asked if we wanted him to save all of those “heirlooms” for us.  He just did.  It took weeks before I was able to dispose of everything.

I read a blog by Richard Eisenberg – Next Avenue Blogger - a few days ago that really hit home and wished I had read it before dad died.  It could have saved me a lot of difficulty and anguish.  I’m reprinting it here in its entirety in the hope that it may help someone else.

“Sometimes, if you’re a lucky journalist, something you write strikes a chord. I’m grateful to say that just happened with my Next Avenue blog post, “Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff,” about challenges boomers and Gen X’ers are facing finding homes for their late parents’ heirlooms (as I experienced after my father died last fall).

This post about a heartbreaking, pervasive problem struck a minor chord in a major way: It was the most viewed article in Next Avenue’s history, garnering more than 1.5 million views, 32,000 Facebook shares and 5,500 comments, and was printed over 3,100 times.

I want to share some of the poignant, funny, helpful and angry comments Next Avenue received (shortened for brevity in some instances), as well as a few suggestions readers offered for selling, donating or passing on parents’ possessions.

The Facebook comments mostly fell into one of five camps: “I so relate,” “This is so sad and difficult,” “I feel guilty about what I had to do,” “I won’t let this happen to my kids” and “You’re wrong! People want  these possessions.” A few plaintively seemed to ask if anyone wanted the particular items they needed to unload. For instance, Nina Mizrahi posted: Does anyone know of folks who collect old crystal set “radios?” Model Steam engines? Colleen Ferguson queried: Anyone want a 1980s soft-sided waterbed?

We will not leave a mountain of stuff for our daughter to deal with. Period.

— Deborah Laister Wagge

I So Relate

Many people said things like “This is spot on!” and “Living it.” Others, like these, got personal:

Merilee Campbell Bridgeman: My children have already told me they don’t want any of our antiques because they don’t care for ‘brown furniture.’ Drives me crazy that they prefer cheap furniture made of pressed sawdust and glue, but what’s a mom to do?

Julie Cranford: That’s why my mother’s beautiful and very valuable antique furniture is still in storage. Unfortunately, I brought home my mother’s, grandmother’s and even great grandmother’s silver, china and glassware. With three boys, I’m sure it will all end up in a dump somewhere.

Annice Laws: My mother… amassed an unbelievable amount of stuff over her lifetime and always preached to me the “value” of this or that…. Well, I’ve learned that nothing is worth anything if no one wants it. My siblings and I kept the select items we were personally interested in, and for the rest of it I’ve held yard sales, put things on consignment, gone to pawn shops, posted on Craigslist and eBay, so on and so forth, but have never made more than a few dollars. I couldn’t even find buyers for her genuine gold and gem stone jewelry and had to liquidate it for pennies at one of those “we buy gold” places. I still have a storage unit full of stuff 20 years after her death because in her memory I can’t bring myself to just give it away.

This Is So Sad and Difficult

Connie Guerrera Maida: Purging my parent’s home of all their possessions was the most daunting task I ever had to do!!

Amy Kelley Warth: It is so overwhelming. Piles and piles of boxes in our basement that are completely random/disorganized… But 95 percent of it is “junk” — nobody wants it. So frustrating and stressful…Just when we got our house settled and had a minimalist lifestyle we were comfortable with, we inherited all this STUFF!

Ellen Schrader Stutts: Just went through this with my 91-year-old mother’s things. Gorgeous refinished furniture that went for fire sale prices at an estate sale… We ended up donating truckloads of stuff to the local shelter and thrift store. Heartbreaking.

Craig Unruh:. I know of three old men who were liquidating their collections and were sadly disappointed in the lack of interest. They collected French Art Posters, Royal Doulton Jugs, and rare Lladros. All their lives they saw the value of these things go up and up, and figured they were building an inflation-proof collection. So did a lot of other collectors of this stuff, but they all need to sell around the same time and not nearly as many buyers as there used to be.

Amy Stoopack Zipkin: In my experience, good luck involving a parent while they are still alive. Perhaps more productive to confer with sibling(s) to begin to establish realistic expectations for the inheritance.

Sofia Dakos: I am afraid we will destroy MANY items that will be sought after in future years and we will be moaning “why did I ever get rid of …”

Nancy Shire: What do you do with the hundreds of pictures of the grandkids taken when they were babies, of which there are probably dozens of duplicates? Who wants my Santa Claus collection? What about all the books? What about my daughter’s Girl Scout awards and sash — how can I throw them away? I guess they’ll all have the joy of plowing through everything when the time comes.

Soosi Day: In the future there will be no personal history … only ‘in the moment’ … no graves, no personal letters, no hard copies of long-lasting photographs, no heirlooms …. no footprints in the sand.

Marie Stout Newlin: It’s a good thing our deceased loved ones can’t see what’s happening to their prized possessions. Many of them struggled through financial woes and “made do” during hard times. To see their things pitched and tossed would be heartbreaking for them.

I Feel Guilty About What I Had to Do

Darlene Davies: My mother made me promise to never get rid of certain items so now they sit in the basement because I would feel guilty selling or giving them away.

Donna Reis: My mother was a serious collector of imported English Victorian antique furniture and spent her weekends throughout my life polishing it to an inch of its life … I cried when her table and chairs were loaded onto a trailer- I hated them but I loved them as well!

I Won’t Let This Happen to My Kids

Cindy Farnsworth Munoz: After having to get rid of my parents “stuff” twice when I lived in another state, I am more determined than ever not to leave that job for my daughter. I live minimally and continually purge. Something new comes in the house, something old goes out … Then when it’s me, her job won’t be insurmountable.

Michelle Rafter: We’ve been through this twice in five years, first when my in-laws moved into assisted living and last spring when my parents downsized … The process made me more diligent about cleaning out cupboards and drawers of my own house so my kids don’t have to.

James Massey: Just went through this for a lifelong friend. It was an ordeal to say the least… The experience impressed me enough to go through my own mess and rid the house of all the needless junk, and donate all (or most) of the items I hadn’t used for a year or more … Though, I couldn’t part with more than 10 or so of my books. Sorry kids… you’ll have to disperse them amongst yourselves after I’m gone. Or better yet, read some of them…

Deborah Laister Wagge: My husband and I recently moved to a new city to be close to grandchildren. I purged like crazy before the move. We will not leave a mountain of stuff for our daughter to deal with. Period.

You’re Wrong! People Want These Possessions

Jan Snodgrass: Not true. There is a big market for antiques!

Arlene Toolas-Villeneuve: I have to say, this has not been my experience at all. Ever had a garage sale? It all gets bought up.

Marcia Vande Vusse: The crochet hook my midwife, Irish immigrant great grandmother brought with her from her Irish home … went to my granddaughter age 15 who loves to crochet … count the generations … six and it is cherished again.

Tracy Fennell Sault: I’ve been working in a secondhand store the last two years. I’ve seen Millennials come in searching for retro or vintage furniture. Last fall I had a couple from Ohio come in looking for a sled like the one in Citizen Kane (Rosebud). Generations are looking for ways to reconnect.

Patricia Kane Bahr: I’m part of a vintage group on FB [Facebook] and lots of people love old furniture. They usually paint it and the results are gorgeous and trendy right now.

Bj Shelby: I believe it is the responsibility of the living to “proudly” dispose of their family members’ accrued stuff … Articles like this one are tagging The Parents’ stuff as a problem. SHAME!!

Brigette Cook Jones: I guess I must be the “Nobody” — I love antiques, old books and other older pieces. Most of these things are made better, and will hold up longer, than any of the IKEA crap that a young Millennial may be buying. If I can get it inexpensive, you will bet that I would buy a nice antique over some particleboard piece!

Danielle Hatfield: We DO want these items (Gen X here) but all too often the (boomer) family members in charge of taking care of our elders toss treasured items to the curb because *they* don’t want them or want to be bothered with distribution.

Pat Kohlenberger Ingham: So not true. I loved going through my parents stuff and my grandparents stuff! Found $600+ in silver coins in a suitcase, letters, diaries, pictures, memories, vintage clothes, etc. Sure there were rubber band collections, a lot of 1-inch long pencils, etc. But man, the memories!

Advice for Others With Their Parents’ Stuff

In addition to the tips below from Facebook posters, I heard from three professionals in fields related to this subject.

Ian Hammond, a Portland, Maine assistant manager at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, a nonprofit store and donation center, noted that ReStores accept donations of furniture and many other home furnishings and many offer pickup, usually at no cost.

Barry Gordon, founder of an online auction platform called MaxSold, told me his company comes to a person’s home, photographs and catalogs what’s available to sell and offers everything online through an auction, marketed to local prospects. “Ninety-eight percent of everything we offer is bought, picked up and taken away,” said MaxSold CEO Sushee Perumal. The company charges $10 per lot with a maximum 30 percent commission and a minimum fee of $1,000 ($300 minimum if you do the photography and cataloging). “We’re not the best option for someone with one or three things, but if you have 35 to hundreds of items, we’re a very good fit,” said Gordon.

Pam Pacelli Cooper, president of Verissima Productions, which creates video biographies to “preserve emotional memories for future generations,” recommends asking your parents to tell you about the personal significance of their possessions. “It is always a surprise — the worthless old rubber bathing cap elicits a vibrant story about visits to the local beach as a teenager and the lifelong friendships that were formed there.” Cooper adds: “Even subjects in the early and middle stages of dementia can remember long-forgotten stories, brought into focus by holding an object or looking at a photograph.”

And some advice from readers:

Beth Shanna Carpenter: My grandparents resell china and crystal professionally. Always check with Replacements, Ltd. — they adjust their rates based on what people are looking for.

Cynthia Broze: My family had large Christmas gatherings every year at my grandparents house. My grandmother used her china, that she saved hard for, at these gatherings. When she died she left it to me and I kept it for 30 years … I emailed to all nieces, her great grandkids, cousins, etc., saying … Hey remember that china? I split it up between many who were happy to take a plate, cup or setting.

Susan Millikin Gorman: We need to teach our children when they are small, what good furniture is. What will last. I took my daughter to a Cherry furniture factory at age 10. She was shown what to look for when buying furniture.

Julie Popovic: Please call your locally owned antique shops or vintage stores first. Small businesses like these often will come in and buy many things you think are worthless.

Diane DiVittorio Strauss: When my mom moved out of her large house into an apartment, I made a quick FREE sign with a board, a pole and stick-on letters. I posted it outside near the road and every day I put a small pile of things that normally would have been discarded. It was so much fun to stand by the window and watch neighbors and passersby “go shopping” in our free pile! Young families took our scrap lumber, guys in pickup trucks took the ladders and handcarts, all the gardening supplies were scooped up, etc, etc. This was much better than hauling it all to the dump.

Marleen Allen Varner: In some communities there are organizations which can use some furniture when setting up homes for formerly homeless folks.

Teresa Rogers: If your family has war letters in its possession, you should consider donating them to the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University, rather than tossing them out.

Does Our Stuff Really Matter?

And I’d like to finish with two comments I especially enjoyed:

Barb Ebert: It doesn’t bother me that my girls are not interested in our stuff. It’s just stuff, really.

Veronica Villano: Personally when I die if someone enjoys something of mine great but it’s not me!! Do whatever you want with my stuff after I die but keep a good memory of me in your heart!!”

For more information about end of life planning, check out our website http://www.diesmart.com.

Ever heard of Charles Millar’s birth derby?

stork-derby-16by9-01Charles Vance Millar, a wealthy Canadian lawyer was known for his practical jokes.  But his biggest prank of all was the one he left in his last will and testament.  When his will was read after he died on October 31, 1926, it was revealed that he had made several unusual bequests.

Millar had no close relatives or heirs but he did have a great deal of cash and properties.  He gave shares in a jockey club to gambling opponents and shares in a brewery to teetotalling religious leaders.  He left his house in Jamaica to three men who hated one another, on the condition that they would own it together.

But his most unusual bequest was made for the balance of his estate – approximately $9 million (in today’s Canadian dollars).  The remainder would be bequeathed a decade later “to the mother who has since my death given birth in Toronto to the greatest number of children as shown by the registrations under the Vital Statistics Act.”  If there was a tie, he wanted his fortune to be divided equally among the winners.

It’s not known how many families decided to try to win this prize.  However, by the deadline in 1936, more than 24 Toronto families had had at least eight babies during the ten year period.

“Ten years after Millar’s death, 32 lawyers showed up to an initial hearing to claim a share of the fortune for the families they represented.  After some quick record scanning, though, the presiding judge, William Middleton, cleared out everyone who didn’t have at least nine kids younger than 10.  That left six families.”

Two of those families settled for about $200,000 each.  Pauline Clark had 10 children during the specified time; however, five were born out of wedlock.  The judge interpreted the bequest to mean “legitimate children”.  Lillian Kenny gave birth to 11 children but three of them were stillborn.  The judge said “A child born dead is not in truth a child.”  Hence the reduced settlement.

Four other families with nine children each – the Timlecks (see photo above), the Nagles, the Smith and the MacLeans – were each awarded the equivalent of about $2 million!

This bequest is probably a lot more unusual than anything you will put in your will.  However, whatever you want to do with your money once your deceased should be well documented so that your wishes will be carried out.

For more information about wills and trusts, check out our website http://www.diesmart.com.

Checked your state’s unclaimed property database lately?

TaffyWhen Sophie Walter died in Illinois in 2009, she left behind a sizable estate, some of it in a pet trust for Taffy, her beloved cat.

The cat’s money was paid out monthly to Taffy’s caregiver, Karen Norwood (who had also been Sophie’s caregiver at an assisted-living facility during the final years of her life).  The funds were used to cover Taffy’s care and maintenance for the remaining years of her life.  She died last year at age 17.

In addition to the pet trust for Taffy, Walters left her money to several animal welfare charities.

Her story would never have been noticed if it weren’t for $121,479 that had fallen through the cracks following her death.  This money was in a savings account she had at JP Morgan Chase Bank.  After five years with no activity on the account, the bank turned that money over to the state treasurer, as required by law.

Taffy’s trust was only discovered when the state treasurer’s office looked for the money’s rightful owner.  Whether the money actually belonged to Taffy is unclear but it was passed on to the same animal welfare charities that had received the balance of Walter’s estate.

A cat can’t check the treasurer’s unclaimed property database but you can.  It’s a good idea to check it every so often in case you actually have an account you’ve forgotten about or a bequest from a now deceased relative has fallen through the cracks.

For more helpful hints about what to do after someone dies, check out our website http://www.diesmart.com.

 

50% of Prince’s estate value goes to pay estate taxes

PrinceYesterday, Prince’s estate had to file an estate tax payment plan.  Since his estate was valued at about $200 million, the taxes are expected to be about half of that – 40% to the federal government and 16% to the state of Minnesota.  Allowable deductions and exclusions will reduce that amount to 50%.

If Prince had an estate plan with trusts to benefit relatives and charities he chose, the amount of taxes due would have been very low.  Instead, only about 50% will go to his six siblings and the government will take the rest.

Prince’s estate didn’t have to actually have to pay the entire $100 million yesterday; it can make payments over time.  That’s a good thing since Prince’s estate isn’t very liquid.  There are many entertainment assets which are still being valued and it can take a long time since their actual worth will be determined.

It’s not clear whether the IRS and Prince’s estate will agree on the value of his music catalog; it’s difficult to put a dollar value on this kind of asset.  The estate can learn from the experience of Michael Jackson’s estate.  He died in 2009 and yet his estate is still not settled.  The tax case will go on trial in Los Angeles next month where there will be a dispute about more than $700 million in taxes, interest and penalties.

You probably aren’t worth this kind of money but even if your estate is only worth a few hundred thousand dollars, you should still have an estate plan.  It will make it much easier for your heirs and will enable them, rather than the government, to share in the total value of your estate.

For more information about estate planning, go to our website http://www.diesmart.com.

What’s a big problem in China?  No wills!

chinese-will-centerIt’s only been in the last 30 years that China has allowed people to accumulate wealth.  Prior to that, it really didn’t matter.  There was no private property to pass along to a descendant so a will was not needed.

Now, some of the first generation to benefit from the ability to accumulate wealth are dying and it’s causing a huge problem with inheritance disputes that are taking up the time of the courts and causing rifts between family members.

We came across a story in USA Today that illustrated the problem and explained what the Chinese government is trying to do to fix it.

“When people die without a will their children scramble for their property, damaging family ties and having a negative effect on society,” the state-run Xinhua News Agency has warned.

“Only 1% of China’s 220 million seniors have drawn up inheritance plans, according to best estimates.  The reason is cultural: talking about death is taboo and writing a will is akin to putting a curse on yourself.”

“Consider the publicized case of Yan Jiying, a coal baron from the northern province of Shanxi.  He died in 2015 at the age of 71, leaving his estranged wife, long-term mistress and six children to fight over his assets.”

“The government is calling on local authorities around the country to establish free legal centers for those over 60. One charity doing that since 2013 is the China Will Registration Center, founded by Chen Kai, a young lawyer with a passion to protect seniors. “

“ The waiting list for appointments at his first Beijing center now stretches into September, proof that people will write a will if they can find support they trust, Chen said. “We want to teach old people that they are the masters of their fortune, that they have the right to decide what happens to their hard-earned money, ” he said.”

“On a recent morning around a dozen seniors were squeezed around a communal table at the center, diligently transcribing the final copy of their will. They begin by dictating their wishes to a lawyer, who types up a draft. The clients are then evaluated by a visiting psychiatrist to establish clarity of mind, they record video testimony of their wishes in the presence of two independent witnesses, and finally copy the final document by hand.”

“For many, the last step is the hardest. Most are over 70 and have shaky hands or poor eyesight. Transcribing a page of formal Chinese characters mistake-free is no easy task. But Chen is adamant that they do it this way, saying he has seen too many badly written wills challenged. He wants his clients to be sure their wishes will be respected even if some family members do not like them.”

Although the percentage of people in the United States having wills is much higher than 1%,  it’s still below 50%.  If you don’t have a will, you should consider preparing one so that your family won’t have to deal with issues related to your estate once you’re gone.  To find out more about preparing a will and other estate planning steps, check out our website http://www.diesmart.com.