Fighting, resentment, jealousy, greed, entitlement, "He said — She said."
What causes these, or at the very least, inflames them? A lack of planning. It's alive and well for those who refuse to plan for their demise, or simply may not know how to plan. Since the beginning of time there has been a battle between the good and the bad and it will continue as long as humans are alive, but it doesn’t have to be this way. There are solutions for those who desire to leave a legacy of love instead of turbulence.
All you need is the will to do it, and to find the right resources to help you put together a plan for your heirs. What would motivate someone to not have a plan for their assets at the end of their life? Probably avoidance, procrastination and a slice of denial — no one wants to talk about the elephant in the room, but if you don't, the chubby pachyderm has a way of taking over. On the flip side, why would someone be motivated to plan ahead and make decisions for their heirs, on their behalf? I call it love, leaving a legacy one can be proud of, and wanting to exercise some control over their assets/heirlooms once they pass away to minimize guesswork and minimize feuding that might arise.
It's true that human nature is unpredictable. There are certainly good people who suddenly behave badly in these situations often leaving siblings and others scratching their heads wondering why they are behaving in such a way. In my line of work, as an estate expert who specializes in personal property, I see many behaviors that could have been deterred from the very beginning had there been a plan in place. Then again, there are those who have a thoughtful plan in place and the behaviors of those involved are usually more even-tempered and gracious.
Ever wonder why so many wait until after their death to bequeath items and heirlooms? If you think about it, it is a lovely gesture to be given something from a loved one after they die. You’re not entitled to it — it is merely gifted to you. If you can imagine a loved one, still very much alive, wanting to give you grandmother's pearls, or dad's war medals, that makes it extra special. In the first place, you know they really wanted you to have it. In the second place, they have just given something away that may very well have caused problems when it came time to divide the estate contents. The giving of that gift may have ruffled some feathers along the way, but in the long run, it is taken from the estate prior to death and given as a gift while the loved one is living — thus minimizing fighting at the time of death and grieving, when emotions are highly charged. There’s something else very beautiful about this option — you can see and experience the look of joy on the recipient's face as well as the giver's face.
I believe in giving seniors and their boomer children the knowledge necessary to evaluate personal property and make informed decisions to ensure its proper distribution. I encourage my clients to create a master list of their heirlooms, both sentimental and monetary — to write down these items and assign a name to each for distribution now, or at the time of death.
Developing this list and making these decisions is an empowering act.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie Hall, known as The Estate Lady, is an estate expert who specializes in personal property. With more than nineteen years experience, she has assisted thousands of individuals in the daunting and often painful process of managing their deceased parents' affairs. Her experience has been sought across the United States and Canada. Read all articles by this author ...