“But I am not a hoarder!” How many times have I said, I mean heard, that phrase? As Americans, we can accumulate an awful lot of stuff. That’s okay — it is our right to have as much stuff as we want. An issue comes into play, however, when our heirs have to deal with all of our (now their) stuff.
Some people might not mind taking two or three weeks to sort through their loved one’s belongings, while others may barely be able to make it through the funeral planning and service, let alone a house full of things. One of my client’s children all lived out of state, and when she passed away they had to stay in Los Angeles for three weeks after the funeral to completely deal with everything in the house and the garage. It turned out to be very emotionally and ﬁnancially draining on them. Also, because she tended to “hide” things to keep them safe, they had to carefully go through all of her old purses, hatboxes, clothes pockets, bric a brac, etc.
The more you are able to downsize your belongings the better it is on your heirs. This could simply mean giving your loved ones what you want them to have while you are still around to see them enjoy it. An elderly man I knew gave his beloved gold watch to his son and, according to him, he got more pleasure seeing his son wear the watch than he’d ever gotten wearing it himself.
If anything were to happen to me and my husband soon, my children would need lots of help carrying all the “Estate Sale” items to the front yard. Our hope, though, is that by the time they have to worry about going through our belongings I’ll have let go of half my wardrobe, whittled down that huge stack of old magazines and newspaper clippings, and maybe even made time to purge the garage of everything with 1 inch of dust or more. The thought of my daughters grieving our absence and also having to rummage through so much outdated paperwork, books, appliances, etc. is a little unsettling.
With all the “to-dos” and emotions that come with the loss of a loved one, the less material stuff there is to deal with, the more time there is for what really matters at a time of loss: relationships with those that remain. Maybe the generations before us were on to something: no supersized homes, no walk in closets, no two or three car garages (full of stuff), no storage huts in the backyard and no public storage units. Imagine that.
© 2018 by Marlene S. Cooper. All rights reserved.
(Marlene S. Cooper, a graduate of UCLA, has been an attorney for over 35 years. Her practice is focused entirely on estate planning, estate administration and probate. You may obtain further information at www.marlenecooperlaw. com, by e-mail at Marlene@ MarleneCooperLaw.com, by phone at (626) 791-7530 or toll free at (866) 702-7600. The information in this article is of a general nature and not intended as legal advice. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this article).