If you read last week’s blog, this title sounds like a contradiction to that article. Read on, and you’ll understand how parents can protect themselves and prepare their belongings for distribution without exploitation.
In my work of helping seniors appraise the worth of their personal property, or liquidating it, I have seen examples of unsavory human behavior during the process. This comes from family, friends, neighbors, or strangers.
In dealing with a lifetime accumulation of stuff, seniors are often at a vulnerable place in their lives and daunted by the task. That’s when predators appear, driven by insensitive greed and persuasive powers. These unscrupulous mischief makers could be stopped in their tracks if only the senior had the knowledge of how much their personal property was worth.
They should also proactively create a master list of what they perceive to be treasures – either sentimental or financial. Parents should use professional appraisers to valuate their possessions now, adding the appraiser’s report to the master list, to protect from unscrupulous people, either inside the family or from outside.
When seniors have avoided making these choices by doing nothing for their estate planning and distribution, they are actually making a decision with dire consequences. I always recommend that seniors distribute their treasures personally now, or in writing for distribution at death. When the gift is personally made, however, they have the satisfaction of seeing the joy on the face of the recipient!
If a personal transaction is not done, then the next best thing is to write down who gets what on a master list. This master list should be kept safely with the will. Both documents will almost always minimize family disputes and exploitation.
Problems generate when the children or close relatives are burdened with dealing with the death of the senior, the pressure of dealing with the estate, and the overwhelming task of disposing of the personal property. Seniors who recognize their own responsibility in this matter and make the decisions themselves are practicing the best defense against family quarrels or exploitation in any guise!
© 2012 Julie Hall