Thursday, September 29, 2011
Helpful Reading: The Boomer Burden
This book lays out not only an approach for emptying out a home after a death, but also for helping your parents reduce the amount of stuff they have while they are living. It also has great suggestions for how to communicate effectively with siblings, sibling spouses, other relatives and friends of the parent during the process. There are recommendations as to how specific professionals can be helpful, a discussion of the kind of items and hidden assets common in the homes of boomer parents, and very helpful checklists.
Some of the gems I found included asking your parent to write down specific future gifts (Jimmy gets the walrus statue, etc.) and then sign the list, make copies and give one to each child. Also the need for spouses to be excluded from some discussions was a good point and a good thing for me to remember when the time comes. Being careful to not take to your own home lots of unneeded items in hopes that they will make your loss easier or "honor" your deceased parent was another key point. Although we all know rationally that the memories and love are inside of us, it is easy to apply magical thinking to material goods especially during stressful times.
The author also highly encourages each of us to make sure we clear out our own belongings, get all legal documents prepared, and leave clear instructions to help the future executor of our estate and our children. I liked the example of the mother who had everything in a 3 ring binder and reviewed it with the executor and children. Personally, we update a list of all insurance, accounts, etc. each January and email copies to our executor and children. That would also be very helpful if a fire destroyed our home or we were ill and incapacitated for a while.
I highly recommend this book if you will be faced with this situation in the future. It will also encourage you to clear out your own living space!