Concern and Worry can Wear on You

Many of my clients are concerned about the state of our economy.  I am worried too, and I’m betting some of your wheels are turning constantly.  In the midst of uncertainty, it is only natural to feel off-balance and a bit insecure.  It’s hard to make solid decisions when so much is up in the air.

Clients need guidance determining what to keep, sell, or donate at a time when the secondary market is so poor.  How do you go about getting top dollar for an heirloom in an economy like this?  You don’t, unless you have something incredibly extraordinary and high-end that people are willing to dig deep into their pockets to obtain.

Some will decide to hold on to possessions, often going to the trouble and expense of storage; I don’t think that’s a viable option.  They think the longer they hold onto it, the more valuable it will become.  Most of the time, the answer to that is “not necessarily so.”  Storage will eat up and surpass the worth of what you put in there.  If you don’t move it into your home right away, I don’t recommend storage.  That’s a sign you don’t need it.

Others want stuff gone immediately and sold, never to be dealt with again.  They sense the economy will get worse and not improve.  They feel it’s better to get what you can now, then nothing at all when things really get rough — if they get rough.

All of these different ideas, opinions, and theories everywhere you look, yet they all have one common denominator: concern and worry.  It can really wear on you too, if you’re not careful.

Here is another excerpt I found from my late mother’s writings.  It lead me to write this blog, because so many of us are in the same boat.  My mother may have read it somewhere and liked it so much she copied it.  I hope you find it as inspirational as I did.  How did she know I needed to hear these words?  Maybe you need them too.

“When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will either be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.”

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on 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

A Spontaneous Invitation Changed My Outlook on Life

It was a spontaneous invitation from my 78-year-old mother to attend their senior holiday dance and party.  I was out-of-state visiting them and I obliged her request, knowing it would make her happy.  How much fun could it really be with everyone so advanced in years?

The club house was nothing fancy — reminiscent of a church basement or school gym, devoid of color, with few decorations.  In front of the small Bingo stage sat the collapsible sound system from the hired DJ, complete with a disco ball spinning crystal dots on the walls, and a lighted 3-foot Santa next to his unit.  The floor was exceptionally shiny, as if someone had spent hours buffing it to perfection for dancing.

The 40 seniors waited in line for cafeteria style dinner of roast beef, green beans, and a roll.  Dessert would be homemade cakes from the neighborhood ladies, served on styrofoam plates.

During our meal, the DJ came alive, obviously loving his job.  I understood he was a retired NYC cop who had found his true calling and was very good at it.  The beat from Glen Miller’s “In the Mood” was evident in my tapping feet, shoulder motions and bobbing head.  Was that ME actually having fun?  Dare I say, the fun was just beginning…

Mesmerized by the fantastic selection of 40’s and 50’s music and jazz beats, the seniors suddenly came alive.  Some with canes, others with oxygen, still others (like my mother) afflicted with heart disease — it didn’t matter to them — they got up and started dancing like they were young again.  Before my eyes, the music became their magic.  Transported  back to the 1940s, the hands of time literally spun backwards to return them to their prime in life.  This was their night and they proudly took ownership.

Over the course of the evening, I found myself looking closely at the weathered faces of the old men.  They didn’t look old to me anymore.  It was like watching an episode of Star Trek when they were brought back in time wearing their US military uniforms. The ladies had vibrant, shiny, hair curls and small waists, just like in the old black and white movies.

The most moving part of the evening was how they looked at each other.  Couples married for 50-60 years still gazed upon each other with love and affection.  I even caught a glimpse of an 80-year-old man stroking his wife’s face while they danced, and I had to hold back the tears because I knew she was fighting an illness.  This, I thought, was true commitment.

They had survived the Great Depression and a devastating world war; raising us was no easy matter either.  These were people who simply did what needed to be done.  They were fiercely loyal, still loved America, and always had a strong work ethic.

For one night, for a few hours, they didn’t care about their diseases, ailments, aches, and pains.  They only wanted to let their hair down and have a memorable time.  There I sat, in love with each of them for the way they treated each other with smiles galore, twirling about as if today were their last day on earth.

The thought crossed my mind, as it probably did theirs, that their time is indeed limited, for some more than others.  How could they dance and enjoy fellowship with such carefree smiles and attitudes?  Because they love life, and offered each other the best gift anyone could possibly receive … the gift of simple joy.  They gave the gift of each other.

I found myself deeply moved by what I saw that evening.  Ours has become a world of convenience, and often inconvenience.  A place where people are always asking, “What’s in it for me?”  A place where we don’t see as much care and concern for each other as was in our parents’ generation.  I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge visiting a strange time and place, who saw the light and understood the meaning in the few hours they allowed me to share with them.  I somehow knew as I watched my parents dance that evening, that I was witnessing the last time they would do so.  Sadly, I was right, which makes this memory even more special.

Our seniors truly are our greatest asset and we have much to learn from them!  In this new year, spend time with a senior.  You won’t regret it, and your heart will grow.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on 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

“Dear Dad” (part 2)

Part 2

Here are the words a daughter used to encourage her father to face fears of dementia.  You can also watch as Julie reads her letter for her father:

Dear Dad,

I love you and mom more than you could ever know.  We don’t say it every day, but it is always there, always in our hearts.  I was just thinking how odd it must be for you to be seeing multiple doctors, because you never did care for them much, but as you say, “the body is starting to wear out.” 

I recall a conversation you and I had recently at your dining room table one morning.  You told me “not to get old.”  Well dad, I really want to get old; may God bless me with a long and fruitful life.  I have so much to do, so much to learn, and so much to give back.  Mostly, I have much to live for — a beautiful family, where I would love to see my daughter grow and flourish, and see her children find their way into this world.  I want to grow old by my husband’s side — wrinkles, aches, and all.  I can see myself as a frumpy old lady in my garden, talking to the birds and an old cat.

In a world where money and material possessions are priorities, I learned at a young age that those things are great to have, but do not bring happiness or guarantee anything good.  It’s all about the relationships we build and sustain that are important.  I believe that when we leave this place, we take only what we have accrued during our lifetime: important lessons, love for family and friends, good times.

Dad, you confided in me that your memory is not what it used to be and that it has you worried.  It is very important to share this with Dr. Jones so he can give you the appropriate tests to rule out certain causes.  I am a little concerned about your memory, because you are concerned.  There are many reasons why memory can become foggy, and many of the reasons are fixable. 

Mom said you cancelled your doctor appointment, but how can you nip this in the bud if you keep cancelling appointments?  If the shoe were on the other foot, and it was me, mom, or brother, wouldn’t you encourage us to get to the bottom of it?  Of course you would.  You would say you cannot run from this sort of thing and to hit it straight on, and you would be right.  We come from a long line of strong, tenacious people.  Empower yourself, dad, and get the facts so you don’t have to worry.

Please also consider that you have a wife and two children who adore you and want you around for a very long time.  While we have no control over how much time we have in this life, we do have control over the decisions we make, and this would be a good one … to see the doctor and get tests done so they can help you with your memory.  Making good decisions is something you always taught us.  Did you think I wasn’t listening all these years?  I have been.

If I have upset you, that certainly was not my intent.  My words came from a place and concern and love for both you and for mom.  Think about this before you cancel any more appointments.  You have always practiced and preached the very principles of Dale Carnegie, and we learned that from you.  I’ll be the first to admit I am not crazy about doctors, but you might be able to head off some memory issues if you find out what is causing them.

As a child growing up, you would always say to me, “Just give it some thought, Julie, and you will come to the right conclusion.”  You probably thought I never listened, but if that were the case, how did I end up this smart? <grin>  Give it some thought, Dad.  Do it for you, for Mom, for us.  Do it because you deserve to know.  If it’s nothing, then it would have been worry for no reason.  If it is something then we will face it all together.  That’s what family is for.

Per la famiglia (To family)!  Ti amo (I love you)!


©2013 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on 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

“Dear Dad”

Part 1

There comes a time in everyone’s lives where you either face the demon or you don’t.  Not one to shy away from much, including a nasty demon who was helping himself to my father, something simply had to be done.

I knew long before anyone else in the family that dad was exhibiting signs of dementia.  When I brought it up to my mom and sibling back in 2006, they thought I was nuts … only, I wasn’t.  It was the one time I wished I was wrong.  It wasn’t long before dad knew something was wrong too.  One day he confided in me that he was worried because his once sharp memory was “fading fast and he couldn’t remember things anymore.”

I encouraged dad to see his family doctor for testing, but he never did or he cancelled appointments.  Mom didn’t push the issue, despite my sweet badgering, because as I was to learn later on, she was afraid.  So afraid to uncover the truth that it seemed to paralyze her, and she was a strong woman.

The letter I will share with you is a very personal demonstration of love between my father and myself, and how I saw things as they were rudely unfolding and trying to blacken our world.  Not knowing what to do, or even how to begin doing it, I looked deep inside to find the right kind of solution because I felt damn helpless.  All my life I could solve any problem, help anyone, come up with solutions.  But I couldn’t beat this … not with all the tenacity in the world!

Of everything that I had heard about dementia, how could anything ever be right again?  It was that quiet inner voice that won my attention and I tried to reach my father through the love I had for him.  “Love conquers all,” they say, and if that is true, my words would touch my father’s soul.  That is exactly what I intended.  If I couldn’t help him fight and win, the least I could do was offer love and hold him up.

I just found this special letter in a box among my mother’s “keepsakes” from her estate; she kept it for a reason.  If you know anyone who can benefit from it, please pass it along, because it worked.  It reached both mom and dad and we all faced this demon together.  Being the front guy facing this enemy is the single, most frightening experience of my life.  There was no sword big enough, nor shield large enough to protect from its talons.  But there is always love …

Part 2 … coming next week

©2013 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on 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

Guilt – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Each day, I work closely with heirs attempting to deal with what their parents have left behind.  Some parents leave more than others, and some downsize long before their time comes.  Some are so attached to their possessions, they leave it all for their children to contend with.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear they use their possessions as an anchor to this world, not fully understanding that when you are called to enter the heavenly gates, you can’t take a thing with you.  You leave this earth much as you entered it, and we didn’t bring one material possession when we arrived.

On a daily basis, I hear middle-aged children tell me their mother “would kill them” if they sold or gave her possessions away, or that mom “always told me how valuable it was and to never sell it,” or that “I had to pass this down to the kids or she’d roll in her grave.”  They openly share with me that mother always stressed the importance of these things and they now feel badly, wanting to sell them.

Friends, this is what I call strategically applied guilt and I am offering you some helpful advice here with the hopes that you will read it, re-read it, and pass it along to those who need to read it!

  1. Every “thing” has a season.  That season of cherishing that item was during your mom’s lifetime, not necessarily yours.  Free yourself and make peace with this.
  2. You may need permission to let it go.  Here it is: It’s OK to let go and let someone else derive pleasure from it. There’s no sense in the item collecting dust, being stacked in your attic, or wrapped up in old newspaper in a box where it has remained since 1977.  Let it go!
  3. No, the kids and grandkids really don’t want it, most of the time.  Even if you have an idea in your head that they will want it in the future, most of the time they don’t.  Ask them what they would like to keep now.  If it’s not on their list, don’t force them to take it.  All you are doing is “passing the buck” to the younger generation that has no tolerance for “stuff.”  They prefer cash.
  4. Why would you clutter up your house with someone else’s stuff?  It’s not fair to you, your spouse, your children.  Make a pact with yourself that you will sort through it in a timely manner … not years, but weeks.  Hire an appraiser to uncover what has value so you can make sound decisions.  Get the kids on board and set dates for them to come get what they want.  If it is unclaimed, give it to a charity of choice; let it go to someone who will appreciate it.  It really is simple — you just have to make up your mind to do it, and forgive yourself for anything you think you are doing incorrectly.  Always look forward.
  5. I’m sure they don’t care about their material possessions in heaven.  Agree?
  6. Relieve yourself and your children of guilt.  Here’s how …

My mom gave me a great gift before she died (her death was not expected).  She took me to the guest room closet which had several packing boxes stacked.  She told me those boxes were filled with family photos.  “When I die, Julie, just throw them away because they are photos of people I don’t even know; I will not give you the guilt my mother put on me.”

When mom died unexpectedly and I was in her home cleaning it out, I walked up to that closet and replayed that scene in my mind.  I actually laughed out loud when I reached for the boxes, telling my brother what mom had told me.  Even though we went through the boxes, she was right and I had no trouble letting go.  I was incredibly grateful my mother gave me that “gift” and relieved me of that burden.  That’s love!

It’s OK to feel a pang of uncertainty.  It’s not OK to drag this stuff with you through life, allowing it to drag you down with it.  It’s not right to place it all on your children.  Learn from this painful experience.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on 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.

6 Practical Ways to Help Your Parents This Summer

Spending time visiting your parents this summer?  Here are 6 practical ways that you can assist your elderly parents.

  1. Help your parents protect all their assets.  Know all the professionals they work with, i.e. CPA, financial planner, attorney, etc.
  2. Know the location of all their important documents.  If the documents are in a locked cabinet or fireproof storage, know where the keys are kept.
  3. Have the important conversations with them about their wishes for the future, who will be their executor, healthcare power of attorney, and discuss distribution of the heirlooms and personal property.
  4. You can’t take it with you!  If they are able, suggest to your parents that they write a master list of who should get what, and give the document to the executor.  Or, they can ask each child what they would like to have, and put that on a “wish list”.  A document cuts down on the “he said-she said” that often goes on when settling an estate.
  5. Start de-cluttering and thinning out your parents’ home now.  Often children are overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” in their Depression Era parents’ home.  This is a good way to begin the process of cleaning out, so you won’t have to do it all at once later.  Make sure you have their permission.
  6. Always come from a place of love.  You will have several difficult conversations and awkward moments when asking your parents these questions.  Always approach them with love.  For example, “Mom, we are very worried about you and would like to have a talk about what you would like for your future.  Sue and I would like to honor your wishes, but first, we need to know what those wishes are.”

For more practical tips and compassionate advice, read my best-selling book, The Boomer Burden: Dealing with Your Parents’ Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff.  Check the right side of my blog for a link to order my books.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on 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.

What Have I Done to Deserve That?

Richard is 82 years old and not in good health.  He lives in the Midwest and called me asking for help with his possessions.  He was moving himself into a small private residence, since he can no longer care for himself.  From what I could tell, he is kind natured and soft spoken.  He told me about his many physical ailments such as diabetes, cancer, breathing problems, etc.  Richard was forthcoming, had his wits about him, and was very pragmatic about his limitations.  He told me he was “falling apart” and needed help.

One of the questions I ask people who call me for help is “Do you have any family that can lend a hand?”  Richard has two adult sons.  He said they never call, don’t care about him, and never showed any interest in him or his life.  As a highly decorated veteran who earned a Purple Heart in the Korean War, he lived a full life as a Marine, with many stories to tell.  He was there at the Battle of Chosin Resevoir — a brutal 17 day battle in freezing weather.  It was pretty clear to me that this man had endured the unthinkable, and even in his older age was still a tough Marine, but his voice held a fragility when it came to his sons.

“What did I do to deserve this treatment from my boys?  I worked hard all of my life to provide for them, and now they aren’t there for me.  What did I do wrong?”

Knowing I was in a position to help Richard, I did my best to assure him that the pitiful actions of his children are not of his doing.  They are adults now and have made a decision not to be present in his life.  One day they would live to regret it, as they sort through his possessions and find his Purple Heart, wishing they could ask questions about their father’s valor and what that great battle was really all about.  But by then, it would be too late; the heavy weight of guilt would be upon their shoulders.

I encouraged Richard to build a relationship with his only grandson, who seemed to at least have some interest in him and his life story.

There are times it becomes very clear to me that people cross our paths for just a few minutes, and in that short time, you can either make a difference or not!


Semper Fi, Richard.  May your journey be a peaceful one from this point forward.

© 2013 Julie Hall

Don’t Mess with My Mojo

Twinkies are soon to be a thing of the past.  How could they do that to us carb-aholics who suffer from a permanent sweet tooth and require the perfect comfort food?  I can hear mom say, “All good things must come to an end,” but seriously, Twinkies?  There goes a special taste from my childhood, along with a few cholesterol points.  Sometimes I wish everyone would leave well enough alone.  It’s true that we become creatures of habit and enjoy things our way.  Then one day we wake up, and someone has messed with our mojo – again.

The same is true for the different chapters in our lives.  One day, if we’re lucky, we find the love of our life, then a baby or two arrive, along with mounting responsibilities.  Our children grow in the blink of an eye; we start to age.  Suddenly, our parents get old, sick, and pass away.  So much of this we learn as we move through it.  There is great joy, there is great sorrow, and there is everything in between.  Just when we understand how to handle it, life throws us a new experience and it all changes again.

I think much of life is about our ability to adapt and accrue wisdom, painful as it may be.

So too, when I am handling an estate where a loved one has recently become ill or died, it is important to remember that each of us bears the scars of loneliness, frustration, pain, depression/anxiety, grief, worry, etc.  This is why I go the distance to always treat my clients as if they are family, because I understand their pain.  Their mojo will never be the same, and if I can shed a little bit of light and direction at that given moment and alleviate some of their heaviness, I have lived a good day.

The bottom line is I can live without the Twinkies, but I can’t live without my nearest and dearest very well.  I need to get over the fact that people and circumstances will mess with my mojo, with or without my permission.

I just looked outside my window at the backyard to see the many squirrels eating the bird seed that has fallen to the ground.  Out of the blue, a large bird of prey swooped low and plucked an unsuspecting squirrel who suddenly found himself air-bound.  Man, did someone mess with his mojo.  All things considered, I’m doing okay … comparatively speaking.

© 2013 Julie Hall

A Heartfelt Thank You

They say time heals all wounds.  In the last few weeks of losing dad and mourning the loss of both my parents in the last year, I have asked myself how I will get back up and move forward.  For me, it is about staying active and busy.  A frequent thought visits me; what can I do to help others, and how can I serve them best?  I just assume, since we all grieve in different ways, I will eventually be okay with the passage of time, bending God’s ear a lot, and relying on the support of family and close friends.

What caught me by surprise, however, were all the wonderful comments and emails I received from you.  I had no idea so many people who I don’t know personally genuinely cared, or that my blogs or writings had somehow touched you or your family.  I had no idea that sharing my thoughts made a positive impact.

I am deeply honored that you reached out to comfort me.  Little did I know that a good dose of healing took place over the holidays because of your kind comments and heartfelt words.

You have re-instilled my faith in humankind — people are by nature “good” even though all we ever hear about in our media is the bad.  Your comments and sincere emails were deeply touching at a time when I needed them most.  I am reminded of a line from a classic movie, “The Sound of Music.”  Fräulein Maria says, “Reverend Mother always says when the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.”

Maria with Mother Abbess

Thank you for opening a window for me.  Happy New Year!

© 2012 Julie Hall

The Crossroads

I just lost my dad.  One minute, he was talking, walking, and shopping with me; the next day he was someone I didn’t know.  Overnight, his dementia had taken hold and he was lost to us.  I’ll never know if it was a new prescription that pushed him over the edge, or someone stealing his wallet at his assisted living center (which held his lucky $20 bill from his Navy days in the 1950s).  I’ll never know the answer and I’ll never gather enough facts to know.  This doesn’t exactly bring me peace.

Was it part of God’s plan to take this wonderful, kind man that everyone loved so quickly?  Had God heard my prayers for mercy as I saw him headed down the slippery slope of decline?  For days in the hospital, I sat talking to dad.  Even though he was unresponsive and incapable of our usual communication, I could see that parts of “dad” were still there.  The doctors were not forthcoming with information and it was a constant struggle to get the facts and the truth — two things my tenacity was going to attain.  I watched for days as the prognosis grew worse, until finally I lifted a prayer begging for answers … any kind of answers.

The neurologist came into dad’s room and he was, quite literally, heaven-sent.  He answered all of my questions to the best of his ability.  He told me dad was not coming back and I needed to make a decision as dad’s healthcare power of attorney.  An infection had started to brew and they wanted to know if we should treat it or not.  Fortunately, one of the greatest blessings in all of this is that mom and dad left detailed living wills/advanced directives, spelling out what they wanted and what they didn’t.

There was no way dad wanted to live like this, and his living will guided us to the final decision that allowed him to die a natural death as he requested.  As my sibling said, “It was the hardest, easiest decision to make, because dad had told us what he wanted.”  We honored his wishes, as hard as it was.  Imagine the level of guilt we would have to bear the remainder of our lives, had dad not gone to the trouble to have this for us, guiding us through a very dark and sorrowful time.

Moving him to Hospice House was the best decision.  Dad was so peaceful there.  I am convinced the nurses and CNAs had angel’s wings under their scrubs; yet another blessing during this time of crisis.  I stayed with dad in hospice for two days.  I talked non-stop (aided greatly by the constant flow of caffeine), I sang to him “Amazing Grace” and other songs he loved.  I asked for forgiveness for the times I wasn’t the best kid or short on patience, and I reminded him of all the great family memories.  I thanked him for instilling in us kids the morals and values that have carried us so far.  I asked him to watch over my family, give mom a big hug, and touch the stars for me.  It is hard to carry on a solo conversation.

A couple of hours before he passed, he gave me a great gift.  He opened his eyes and locked onto mine.  He hadn’t done that in a week.  Giving dad the biggest smile that I could through the tears, I told him that I was right there with him and that I was okay (he always worried about me).  I was sad but okay and was going to be okay.  I told him “I love you” as I had at least 100 times that day.  For a man whose brain could no longer function and who lost his powers of speech, what he did next was a very special gift.  Eyes locked on mine, his lips mouthed the words, “I love you” right back.  In human terms, that was impossible, but not to me.  That was a parting miracle and one I will never forget.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.  It is a sorrowful time for me and my family, but dad always said, “Life is for the living,” and mom always said, “This too shall pass.”  I think they were both right, as always.

© 2012 Julie Hall