Baby boomers represent a generation of super collectors. They have often accumulated fancy dinnerware, traditional furnishings, and decorative objects representing decades of style trends.

The number of “family treasures” a person can collect over several decades can be overwhelming. Outside of items baby boomers purchased, baby boomers also likely held onto gifts from weddings, birthdays, and milestone anniversaries.  Baby boomers saved these with good intentions to bequeath them to children and grandchildren. The trouble is, in increasing numbers, these heirs don’t want or need their parents’ china, crystal, dining chairs, or nesting tables.

So what should baby boomers do with all that stuff if they’re planning to downsize their residence from a big house to a small condo in a retirement community? How should they update estate planning documents if they find out their adult children would need to rent a storage room larger than a studio apartment just to hold all the stuff Mom and Dad want to pass down?

Family meetings help

Quite often, the simplest action a baby boomer can take is to hold a family meeting with his estate planning attorney present in order to answer everyone’s questions.

Prior to the meeting, the baby boomers put together a list of personal belongings they would like to bequeath to heirs. The estate planning attorney reviews the list to see if there would be any negative effect financially or tax-wise for the beneficiaries. In some cases, it may be necessary to have antiques, furnishings and artwork appraised professionally.

At the meeting, the loved ones hear directly from their Mom or Dad who they want to take possession of certain items, when, and why. And, perhaps most importantly, these beneficiaries have a safe space to voice either acceptance or rejection of the items.

There will always be adult children who, in trying to avoid what they felt would be a difficult or stressful conversation of telling Mom or Dad “no thanks,” simply accepted items they didn’t want rather than put up a fight. As soon as Mom or Dad passed away, they sold or tossed the lot into a donation bin.

A family meeting facilitated by an estate planning attorney can help avoid confusion, hurt feelings, and stress over what happens to baby boomers most treasured belongings.

Shedding begins at home

The New York Times recently ran an interesting feature on this issue faced by more and more aging adults who accumulated a lifetime of heirlooms but found that their loved ones don’t want or have need of these items.

“Today’s young adults tend to acquire household goods that they consider temporary or disposable, from online retailers or stores like Ikea and Target, instead of inheriting them from parents or grandparents. … This represents a significant shift in material culture,” the article said.

The change in aesthetic from lavish furnishings and collections to minimalism and uncluttered spaces has led to an uptick in the senior move management industry, the article said.

The Times presented several possible solutions for seniors and baby boomers seeking to shed belongings. The first step is to emotionally let go of possessions your children decide they don’t want. After that, donate the unwanted items to charity, hold an auction, or sell the items in a consignment shop or online. In some cases, a senior person simply rents a storage unit, though this just postpones the inevitable.

Contact Gary in case you are facing a downsizing dilemma or have questions about how to talk to your family about bequeathing personal collections and treasured belongings, – by phone @ 847.719.1300 or click here to contact via web form.

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