Fighting, unpleasantries, 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 make a plan, and the right resources to help you put together the 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 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 and 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 you something that may 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. This minimizes 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 proper distribution. I encourage my clients to create master lists 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.

copyright 2009, The Estate Lady

Author's Bio: 

Julie Hall, known as The Estate Lady, is a professional estate liquidator and certified personal property appraiser. With more than eighteen 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 on radio, TV, and newspaper media including Bloomberg News, MSN Money, and the LA Times.

She has authored a best selling book titled "THE BOOMER BURDEN: How to Deal With Your Parents' Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff", currently available on With increasing numbers of boomers and older adults across the globe, they are all leaving behind a lot more than their children bargained for. THE BOOMER BURDEN will guide loved ones on how to appropriately handle their parent's belongings while keeping one's sanity...and that is priceless.

Julie writes a weekly blog which is available at, called The Estate Lady Speaks.