Wondering How You’ll Keep Family Peace While Liquidating Your Parents’ Estate? Author of “The Boomer Burden” Offers Tips to Reduce the Stress

August 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Relationships & Family

Whenever a close friend of ours visits his parents, a wonderful couple we have also come to know and love, he inevitably returns with a bit of concerned grumbling about the on-going battle they always have over his efforts purge his parents’ garage of what he sees as a lifetime accumulation of junk.

The punch line is always the same: his father defends this “quasi warehouse” as a collection of treasures, while our friend half-joking threatens that upon their death, he’ll return to clean house with a backhoe!

Happily, I’ve just come upon a fantastic solution to end this family stalemate:

Prior to his next visit, I plan to gift him with a fantastic book, which he, his brother and his parents can read together before jointly working out a plan for the inevitable future.

The book is called “The Boomer Burden – Dealing with Your Parents’ Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff,” by Julie Hall, who is known professionally as The Estate Lady®. Next to infirmity or death, estate settlement is the most stressful challenge a Boomer will go through with their parents, she says, “and often leaves everyone involved feeling upset, resentful and frustrated.”

A professional estate liquidator and certified personal property appraiser, with more than seventeen years experience, Hall is an expert in personal property, specializing in the dissolution of tangible assets. She has seen it all while assisting thousands of individuals in the daunting and often painful process of managing their deceased parents’ affairs.

Many of the 78 million Baby Boomers – whose parents learned how to hoard in order to survive the Depression – are finding themselves having to deal directly with the effects of that mentality.

“Old habits certainly die hard,” she says. “I see it over and over. As Boomers age and their parents become invalided or pass away, the added burden of having to deal with all that stuff left behind is compounded by the fact that their parents once hoarded items of value in order to stay alive and the urge to save and collect ultimately became habitual.”

“When a loved one passes away, and you suddenly find yourself responsible for taking care of all the ‘stuff’ he or she left behind, it’s common behavior to speed the process by thinking ‘when in doubt, throw it out,’” explains Hall. “But too often, families don’t know the value of the inheritance they’re discarding.”

Hall offers her readers an alternative: have family property professionally evaluated and appraised. “I always find a number of precious items easily mistaken by the adult children as trash.”

Worse, Are the Family Fights

Perhaps worse than throwing away treasure in the trash, are the major family disputes that frequently arise during the settlement of an estate. These often tear siblings apart.

(Having personally experienced the impact of several such fights – just last week, my 78-year old mother and her 76-year old sister finally got together again for the first time since they battled over the settlement of my grandmother’s estate twenty years ago – I know just how valuable the advice in this book can be.)

Hall advises that the best place to begin preparing for the inevitable is among the siblings.

She suggests an initial planning meeting limited to siblings – no spouses – be held in a public place as soon as possible – hopefully before signs of parental inability to cope begin to surface. The goal is to discuss the future and make plans together for how to handle it.

And one of the first steps she recommends is for everyone involved to read her book! (I guess that gets everyone “on the same page!”)

Here are a handful of real life examples from Hall’s book

As you read them, I bet your mind will flash to similar situations you’ve personally observed, I know mine did:

  • Elderly woman with advanced Alzheimer’s (husband in back bedroom dying of Parkinson’s) is completely taken advantage of when neighbors and so-called friends come into her home offering to help her with her upcoming move to a nursing home by buying her valuable heirlooms. What she didn’t understand was that they were taking advantage of her mental state – and buying her family treasures at garage sale bargain rates – we’re talking $2,000 worth of sterling silver flatware walking out the door for twenty bucks! The neighbors knew better, but she didn’t. There was nothing the police could do, since she willingly accepted money for her belongings. The items sold for pennies were worth thousands, and her children, totally unaware of what was happening, will never again see the heirlooms they should have inherited.
  • Elderly widower wanders the neighborhood in the middle of a winter night, barefoot and wearing only pajamas. He manages to get into a neighbor’s home. The neighbor initially thinks it’s a burglar, but then recognizes the elderly gentleman and offers him a blanket and sofa to sleep on while they call the police, who contact the man’s adult daughter. Her other sibling is in denial. It’s time for professional assistance.
  • Two siblings inherit millions each and viciously fight over the old Tupperware. Hall gets hit in the head with a flying kettle in the process.
  • Elderly dad has a problem: Two sons, one Civil War firearm passed down for generations. Both sons are already fighting over it. He wonders which he should he give it to – and seriously considers just letting them fight over it after he’s gone.
  • Daughter holds “24/7” vigil by her father’s bedside until his death, rarely letting other siblings in. Everyone thinks this is because she is so close to him. Turns out the real reason for her “devotion” is her desire to “cherry pick” and stash away prized possessions she wants for herself in the basement. When Dad dies and the coroner arrives, the other sibs gather on the first floor comforting Mom while daughter is in the basement, funneling her stash to her car.
  • Wealthy woman, blind and suffering from Alzheimer’s, daily decks herself out in her fantastic jewelry collection. The heirs ask to have the diamonds removed and replaced with CZ’s, but before the request can be carried out, the caregiver steals the jewelry while the woman naps. (For good measure, they also took a crock pot.)
  • Son who’s just lost his aging parents decides to donate a pair of “really ugly” vases to Good Will. Recognizing them for the collector’s items they are, Hall rescues the vases. And sells them at auction for over $60,000.

The Boomer Burden is available in highly affordable paperback ($10.19 USD) from I highly recommend it, because it will teach you to:

  • Divide your parents’ estate with peace of mind
  • Minimize fighting with siblings during the estate settlement process
  • Clear out the family home in 10 days or less
  • Identify potential items of value in the family home
  • Plan how to have “that conversation” with your parents
  • Prepare yourself and your children for the future
  • Plus it’s got fantastically comprehensive checklists, spreadsheets and resource lists.

Don’t wait! Ease the potential for anxiety.

Order yourself a copy right now. And while you’re at it – get a copy for each of your siblings too! They’ll thank you for starting the difficult discussion of how your parents estate ought to be settled. Here’s that convenient link again: The Boomer Burden – Dealing with Your Parents’ Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff.


22 Responses to “Wondering How You’ll Keep Family Peace While Liquidating Your Parents’ Estate? Author of “The Boomer Burden” Offers Tips to Reduce the Stress”

  1. Daring New (Non-”PC”) Topic for Cocktail Party Conversation: “Do YOU Think You Will Have Enough Money When It Comes Time to Retire?” : Boomer Lifestyle on August 27th, 2008 1:15 pm

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    […] their wishes with their Power of Attorney-designee. But that would have involved having some REALLY frank discussions…something few of us might be up to talking about with our parents — or our […]

  3. kermit@minneapolis homes on October 28th, 2008 2:27 pm

    As a real estate agent, the biggest problem I see with estate sales is the amount of clutter and outright trash that prevents the sale of a home.

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    […] No wonder the Times blog post, Adult Children, Aging Parents and the Law attracted 81 reader comments before it was even 24 hours old. You know dealing with multi-generational needs is the primary challenge of the sandwich generation. […]

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    […] your new home health care business will not be labor intensive: You are able to do it once, and get paid repeatedly. A […]

  6. Peter@Latterkonsulent on January 23rd, 2009 3:01 pm

    I guess the best way to deal with it is a good relationship with your siblings. If you hate your brother or sister it must be very strange.

  7. Charles@Las Vegas Homes on January 28th, 2009 7:11 pm

    We just went through this type of situation with a listing. The kids inherited their dad’s condo after he passed. It was literally full to bursting with all kinds of stuff. They didn’t know what to do with it all and it turned into a huge mess. Could have used someone like Hall.

  8. Chad@Myrtle Beach Real Estate on February 18th, 2009 12:01 am

    This is always one of the hardest thing to deal with – dealing with grieving family and trying make business decisions at the same time.

  9. steve@Credit Card Debt Settlement on February 27th, 2009 1:35 pm

    I agree completely with the point of have a very good relationship with your siblings. That would help out so much better in these types of situations, being estranged from them can really complicate things.

  10. Kathy@san diego personal injury attorney on June 12th, 2009 3:04 pm

    If you plan ahead for the inevitable the whole ordeal can be kept private and disposition can be more orderly and cheaper. Plan, plan, plan. Spend the $1,000 for a simple living trust.

  11. William@Hair Extension San Diego on July 6th, 2009 11:36 am

    I think you just need to do what’s best for you and your family. Think about all the good times that were had in that home instead of focusing on getting rid of it.

  12. Damon@Honest Debt Settlement on October 30th, 2009 10:47 pm

    I couldn’t imagine fighting over stuff while a loved one is dying. Sadly though I know this is a reality most of the time. I guess a detailed will can help with a lot of this stuff. I guess the worst is when there are no instructions left and the adult children want the same things, (which I think is always the case). Draw up a detailed will and dictate who gets what. This certainly won’t eliminate all hard feelings, but at least it will provide some direction.

  13. Josh@Italian Shoes on February 23rd, 2010 3:00 pm

    I’ve actually had to deal with this recently and this book helped quite a bit! Having 3 sisters to split stuff with made it increasingly difficult, but I used some of the tips in this book and we ended up making it work. I highly recommend this to anyone in that situation.

  14. Anne on February 24th, 2010 2:03 pm

    Hi Josh,

    I’m so glad you found the book helpful. I did as well. Thanks for sharing!


  15. Jimmy@Solicitors in Birmingham on March 22nd, 2010 10:50 am

    I see this type of problem a lot, it is a great shame when a family is torn apart by fudes over property and possession. It seams that when money is conserned the wish of a dead relative can vanish. One point mentioned in this article that the book also touches on is meetings with out the spouces of the relitivs been pressent – this is vital. It seam that all to often the spouce’s imput, who is less emotional atached to the ecease and the other family members involved, is enough to convince there partner that all money is more important than family relationships. Sad but true.


  16. Ajmal@Hospital Doctors Queensland on April 3rd, 2010 11:13 am

    Such situations are really difficult to tackle but only way to solve this type of issues peacefully is by having a relationship of trust with your siblings and thinking for the benefits of whole family instead of individual benefits. Any how, your post was really interesting and helpful for me.

  17. on April 16th, 2010 4:14 am

    I am also a victim of such a situation and facing a problem in selling the property left by my parents. It makes me really sad that just because of property and possession, we people have forgotten such precious blood relations. I wish and I request you to write a post in which you give some practical solutions to such problems.

  18. David@Home Builder on May 20th, 2010 10:56 pm

    This is one of the hardest times for whole family…Family members would be having problem with there business, jobs and one more problem to struggle with.

  19. Tom on July 7th, 2010 9:27 am

    As an attorney, I have spoken with a number of people that have been going through this same process. While it is difficult and not ideal, people usually adjust to the circumstances and overcome their grief in order to make these types of settlements.

    Naturally, condolences are still in place..

  20. Robert on February 28th, 2011 1:33 am

    This is a great handbook for anyone dealing with aging parents, and for caring parents who want their children to know their wishes. If you do half of what Julie suggests, you will make your own life easier, your siblings and parents life easier. The book has great practical advice and it’s written by someone who cares deeply about her subject.

  21. Treadmill Traci on April 13th, 2011 11:51 am

    When my grandma passed on everything was a mess because she chose to leave a will. My grandpa on the other hand chose to have a living trust and everything has gone as smoothely as is can possibly go. Living Trusts are the only way to go.

  22. California on November 10th, 2011 11:51 pm

    I do agree with all the concepts you’ve offered on your post. They’re very convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are too quick for starters. May just you please lengthen them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.