To Bequeath A Burden

Many of us grew up with the notion we should leave heirlooms and other possessions for our children and grandchildren; a physical legacy of who came before us and where we came from. Not all of us, though, have the ability to objectively recognize what a “good inheritance” really is.

What was important to our elderly mothers and grandparents may have had meaning to them, but not necessarily to us, our children or their future children. We might be “related” but had no emotional ties to them. This can often disappoint some, while others accept it and make decisions based on what their children are telling them in the here and now.

Let me tell you a story…

Mom and Dad died years ago and the children are finally in need of emptying the storage units they put all of the home contents into 10 years ago. The money is about tapped out and they scramble to figure out how to sell what was stored inside the storage unit(s). They also know they must face the difficult task at hand. They are confident they will more than get back what they spent in storage. This is not usually the case because the market is completely different than it was years ago. Plus, they often discover the items are not in the same condition as they once were.

Some families seem to experience a type of paralysis when dealing with mom and dad’s estate. They immediately put everything into storage to “deal with it later” but later never comes and the bills pile up. Then one day, years later, it is finally time to deal with what is in storage because over $10,000.00 was spent, gone forever, to store these items which sadly have declined in value through the years.

In the last few client cases I have had regarding items in storage for years, the children believed the items inside the storage increased in value because they were taught to believe with the passage of time these “valuable antiques and things” would go up in value because they are rare.” This is NOT accurate 98% of time based on what I see.

It is heartbreaking to see the looks on their faces when they are told the truth; that the items don’t have much value, or even if a few pieces do have value, they may not recoup what they spent in storage fees.

I even see families who not only store for many years at one location, but then move it across the country to store it again. It is hard for me to imagine the kind of money and man power it takes to do this, then the families get upset with professionals in my industry who are telling them the truth about how values have fallen.
There are also times when the children look to the sale of mom and dad’s possessions to get them out of debt. When this doesn’t happen, we see a mixture of emotions such as anger, disbelief, sadness and finally the realization of “what is.”

It is more often that I would like to admit that I hear stories from the children who repeated the instructions their now deceased parents gave them: “These items are very valuable. They were appraised in 1985 for over $150k. You need to know how rare these items are.” So, the children are left scratching their heads when they learn the real scoop.

Then the children reveal the truth: “We told our parents we didn’t want any of this but they did not listen!”

One of the chapters in my book, The Boomer Burden, is titled, “I Will Never Do This To My Kids.” I wrote that nearly a decade ago and it still stands.

I realize that everyone is different and our emotions are unique, but things like this need to be dealt with, not put on the back burner. Sometimes they are put on the back burner so long, the decision maker dies too, passing the buck to the next generation who has no interest whatsoever. Sad, but true.

©2017 The Estate Lady® Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is a national expert in dealing with personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation.
No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent. Email her at

3 thoughts on “To Bequeath A Burden

  1. You are absolutely correct! My mother loved, and I mean LOVED, her 150+ Hummel figurines. I, on the other hand, never liked them. Definitely not my taste. Anyway, she would frequently ask me, her only daughter, if I would “take care of” her Hummels after she died. I told her no, that she knew I didn’t like them. She spent a fortune on these things, truly. Some of the really big ones cost her about $1000.00 each back in the 70s and 80s! Well, as you know, today is different. Not many people want these things, and they have no real value anymore, as the people who bought and liked them are now in their 80s, 90s, or deceased. Amazingy, I have one brother whose wife likes these things. I kept a bell, just because it’s dated 1978, the year I got married, and gave a couple to my two kids. Gave the rest up for adoption! 🙂 ~Nancy

  2. That’s the perfect solution, Nancy. Keep a couple and find good, appreciative homes for the rest. I did that with my mother’s estate as well!

  3. A recent client realized that her knick knacks represented her memories, and not that of her kids. She was happy to keep what she wanted, and was able to let go of the rest.

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