This is a difficult subject to bring up, but one that every family should address at one point. There are many aspects concerning estate planning, I would like to touch on just one part of it, which is dealing with your parent’s belongings.
I had a conversation with my mom about her cluttered basement a few years back and although it may have been a sensitive matter to bring up, she was very appreciative about my honesty. I started by asking if I could be brutally honest with her – we do have a great relationship, so it was easier for me to pose the question. Next I asked her to think about all the “stuff” in her basement and if she would want my brother and I faced with the daunting task of going through her belongings after her passing; or if she would rather spend some time now going through her things, while she would be the one to decide where, or to whom items should go.
So in March of 2008 I spent 8 fun-filled days with my mom in Germany de-cluttering her large basement, which is made up of 5 separate rooms. We worked about 2-3 hours each morning leaving ample time to visit. One thing I have to share about my mom is that she grew up in war-torn Germany leaving her with the mindset of “I might need it someday”. She had also inherited all of her second husband’s belongings, which she had not been able to part with for the past 18 years, so the task wasn’t easy.
With a lot of humor and encouragement we worked our way through the rooms and got the basement to its present state of order and organization. When the job was completed I sat down and asked my mom how she was feeling about the whole project – she beamed at me and thanked me from the bottom of her heart. She admitted that she had been holding on to all that “stuff” out of guilt and because she felt overwhelmed, never knowing how or where to start . All she needed was a “gentle nudge” from her well-meaning daughter 🙂
So talk to your parents if they live in a home filled with decades full of memories and ask them about their wishes – you both will be glad you did.