In The Boomer Burden – Dealing With Your Parents’ Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff, Julie Hall, a.k.a. The Estate Lady, shares expertise gained during seventeen years spent working in estate liquidation. As a professional estate contents’ expert and certified personal property appraiser she is well qualified to give advice. It is not only welcome, but also desperately needed. Parents of baby boomers — Depression survivors who have found a lifetime of security in their possessions — are aging, then dying, and leaving behind a lot more than memories.
In an “Author’s Note” at the beginning of the book Hall promises, “This book will provide you with the trustworthy counsel you need when facing the monumental task of walking your parents through their final days and then settling their estate.” She proceeds to keep that promise in fifteen chapters that deal with things like how to tell your parents are failing, the importance of a will, what an executor is and does, how to protect the estate from grasping neighbors, friends and relatives, how to ascertain the value of estate items, how to clean out your parents’ house, and more.
Important points covered in each section are repeated within the chapter as slimmed-down lists, definitions, and words of advice in sidebar-type boxes. Each chapter concludes with “What Can I Do Now?” – a checklist of three pertinent actions for the reader to perform at that particular juncture of the process.
The book ends with three appendices: a checklist for parent care, a list of helpful resources, and a list of estate documents and information that children should locate and keep accessible.
Though the subject matter makes this a hard book to read, Hall’s sympathetic tone and reasoned approach helps the reader quell naturally arising angst in favor of paying attention to what needs to be done. Her wealth of stories and anecdotes keeps the book interesting. If the story of neighbors who cleaned out the valuables of a senile lady’s house, paying her mere dollars when the pieces were worth hundreds, doesn’t outrage you, some of the stories of family treachery will.
Hall’s real goal is to move the reader beyond outrage to action. If you are a boomer with aging parents, The Boomer Burden will motivate and guide you. It will show you how to set things up now while your parents are still alive so the estate isn’t a nightmare to settle later when there is no will, no knowledge of where important papers are kept, and no list of who gets what. (However, if your parents have died intestate — without a will — it walks you through that scenario as well.) If you are a boomer or a boomer’s parent, this book was written to motivate you to look after your stuff yourself and not leave it to your kids.
So, if you’re a boomer with failing parents, get this book. As someone who was executor of my mother’s estate two years ago, I can vouch for how bang-on its advice is. I only wish I had had it then.
If you’re a boomer or younger, get this book in any case, not for your parents’ estate but for your own. Follow its advice and leave your children one of the best gifts you can give them – a straightforward and well-administered estate.