Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Challenge of Inheriting an Estate Collection... What Do You Do, Especially If Its Not Local?

Coincidentally as I was proof reading this blog an article came across my news feed regarding an MIT Professor who recently passed and had a massive book collection.  I too have recently confronted this dilemna with my parents estate in Florida.  Boston Globe article 

This weekend we are holding an estate sale at my parents condo in Florida.  This is the culmination of close to 3 years and multiple visits by my brother and me to Florida since our Dad passed away in October 2013 to sort his massive collection of historical items.  When our Mom passed last July the collection became ours.  A small amount of the collection included items my Mom cherished and many of these items will be preserved.  Since we both live up North and each have homes already filled with our own things, it would be impossible for us to retain the collection in full.  Although initially the thought of getting rid of things brought sadness to both of us the reality was that we are both nearing the time to downsize our own homes and between us none of our six kids want much.  Collecting is great for the person who is the collector but it is difficult to pass on in integrity to future generations.

The song "Let It Go"  Let It Go from the movie Frozen has particular meaning to me.  When I think of Frozen I think about the art of collecting.  Collecting allows someone to mentally remain in a particular period of time by holding onto items that bring that period to life.  The collector becomes "frozen" or paralized in their own reality world of the collection.  To my Dad,  this basically encompassed all of western civilization.   He was a compulsive collector of antiquities, coins, books. postcards, American ephemera, historic documents and newspapers, autographs, postcards, stamps, Judaica, Native American baskets and pottery, fossils, ancient weaponry, bone china, historic reproductions of ancient museum pieces, lps and cds, dvds, Civil War memorabilia, World War II collectibles, presidential and celebrity autographs, political campaign buttons and much more.

A close to 2400 square ft. three bedroom condo was filled to the brim from floor to ceiling with rare collectibles.  Many items were located on bookshelves or behind glass showcases as well as in file cabinets.   When these became filled the floors, closets and all visible and undersurfaces became home to the overflow.  Items of value where interwoven with items of relative intrigue.  To an outsider  the collection would appear to be a hoarders paradise.  To my Dad it was all part of in his legacy.

Dad's passion was the art of collecting and he went to all lengths to amass his habit.  He was always on the prowl.  Some say there is a fine line between collecting and hoarding and often this came into question as we sifted through many of his items.  To my Dad though, there was a purpose in every item purchased.  His brain was wired to be the original internet.  He collected in a manner that hyperlinked items to other items in the collection.  To better explain this if he owned a book on Thomas Jefferson,  he would also have an item he invented, a photo of that item,  a book with a reference to it, possibly the patent and then maybe a related item by a similar inventor.  The items would be crossed referenced in his head and located in several places throughout their home.

The complexity of the collection was "mind boggling", a favorite expression Dad used.   Because he spent close to 60 years putting this collection together it was much more than just stuff.  It became very important for us to find a right home for everything.  This became a project that truly is culminating after 18 monthes.  Because neither of us lived locally to the property it became more difficult a challenge to manage.  My brother works full-time as a Professor so it was harder for him to spend the time necessary to manage this process and thus it became primarily my project.  I had more flexibility as a realtor to be able travel when needed.  It took several trips to grasp and go through the inheritance.  It was necessary to cull through each and every items, sort it, select and distribute items of sentimental or intrinsic value to family members and then decide what to do with the rest.

The first step of the process involved going through each book in the collection.  The books were the bulkiest and took up a majority of space throughout the condo.  It would be impossible to ship these to Boston as there were so many and the cost and space would be prohibitative.  There were close to 8000 or more books.  Many were rare, autographed and first editions.  A larger portion were new books that one would find at a Barnes and Nobles type store.  The books were interspersed and I had to go through and separate the rare signed books.

I researched how to sell books online and set up Amazon and Ebay accounts as I first thought I would attempt to sell them on my own.  I also joined a Facebook group dedicated to advising online sellers.  Because I don't live in proximity to the books it became obvious that it would be hard to sell these online unless they were shipped somewhere for fulfillment.  I would not be local to ship things with a quick turnaround. Realizing this I asked for advice through the Facebook group and subsequently a Tampa area bookseller reached out to me to buy some books.  Through her she referred me to a an area bookstore seller who was interested in buying many of the books in bulk.  (I think he actually also may be a hoarder type).  After sorting through the ones I wanted to keep  he bought over 3000 books.  My son,  who also has a similar passion to my Dad ending up with about 500 books that are in my basement now.

Next I had to deal with the collectible items.  For some guidance I read Maria Condo's book,  The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  It became apparent that keeping much would only add to the clutter I was trying to rid in my own home.Although I ended up shipping several boxes of old photos, memorabilia and collectibles north to later diceminate, I tried to reduce this and will similarly re-sort things on my own turf.  As best as possible we located specialty dealers or auctioneers for rare items, donated books to a Holocaust museum in St. Petersburg,  donated consumer goods to a hospice resale shop,  and finally got the condo down to the point of doing an estate sale.

Last summer I went online to research estate sale companies and found a few near my parents place that specialized in high end estate sales.  After interviewing them we ended up choosing one that markets to end users and collectors and was well known in the area.   It is best to hire a professional company to come in and handle this process.  They will bring in specialists to appraise each item, set up and market their sale, run the actual days of the sale and then help the owner dispose of any unsold items by either donating or giving things away at the instruction of the owner.    It is important to find a reputable dealer and to obtain references and permissions to hold a sale, particularly if it is in a condo or apartment building.  The estate sale company has a following of consumers in Florida who often seek out these sales for their own collections.  As part of the process they require the owner to stay away from the property during the sale.  Although hesitant at first it is easier to not be there when strangers are going through your property.  My hope is that the items being sold will find buyers who will appreciate them as much as my parents did.

I now totally understand the emotional and physical challenge of preparing a home for an estate sale.  Although at first it was very hard to let go of many items, you just have to make up your mind to finally do it.   About three weeks ago my brother and I went down to Florida together to finalize the details of the sale with the estate sale company and handed over the keys.  We agreed to sell it all as it was time to move forward and let go of any freeze holding us back from selling the condo.  As an SRES I now have firsthand experience that I can share with my clients and their families.   I can be the local person to help if a client lives out of state but needs help with the process of selling their parents estate in the areas I serve as a realtor.  If you are a baby boomer or have parents who may need help preparing to downsize their home feel free to reach out to me as I am building a team to help clients with each stage of this process.  You can email me by clicking here   Feel free to visit my Facebook page @WendyBCB Wendy Bornstein, @Realtor, SRES, MBA

Of note,  I am now getting ready for my next blog which will be about preparing the real estate listing for my parents estate.  Stay tuned.

Wendy recently joined Coldwell Banker Needham.  She has been a realtor for over 8 years and knowing the area quite well can share a hands on local perspective.  She has also recently earned the SRES  designation and looks forward to helping other baby boomers as they approach their next transitions.  Feel free to contact her directly or click here if you would like to learn more.  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Keeping Local While Aging in Place

A great book I recently finished reading was "Being Mortal" by Dr. Atul Gawande.  In his book, he looks at American society and how we deal with end of life issues.  His focus in not just on the finality of life but on how our society helps or should help all families prepare for this chapter of each individuals journey.

One aspect discussed in depth is where our elders live towards their end of lives. While many American's age in place, many do not have family or a support system nearby and need to depend on a residential community.   This is a sharp contrast to his native homeland (I believe in India) where families are tied to their communities and elders are highly honored as a part of the community through their last days of mortality.  He discusses the contrast of keeping an elder at home and compares alternative options that have evolved in the latter part of the last century through today with first nursing homes, then the development of assisted living facilities to memory care.  Many of these venues allow for professional care of our elders as facilitated by a residential communities.  If possible it is great to find a facility in the same local community where the senior has lived but often he or she is moved to be close to family members.

A growing trend now is the development of local villages. Villages are communities organized geographically to provide services that would allow seniors to continue to age in place in their local communities with the support of an organized administrative staff and volunteers.  Often a per person fee is paid to support needed programs.  This is ideal as it allows the person to continue to live a familiar environment and remain as part of their "community".

I have recently gone through the end of life phase with both of my parents and was fortunate to be able to help them as needed. It was extremely important for both of them to age in place and stay at home until absolutely impossible due to failed health.  Home was their comfort zone and having their personal surrounding was of utmost importance.   I am a strong advocate of aging in place if it is a viable option.

In today's Boston Globe there was an informative article discussing aging in place in Massachusetts communities and there is a list of Massachusetts Villages with their emails and contact information. I was pleased to learn there are several local villages nearby and other parts of the state.  This allows seniors to remain as locals in their neighborhoods.

The area of senior aging is near and dear to me.  As mentioned previously both of my parents faced end of life issues before passing and I had to deal with both the personal side of things as well as the business end of settling their estates.  In addition, during this same time period I helped my in-laws downsize and move first to an assisted living and then memory care facility in the Needham area.  My in-laws moved less than a mile from the local neighborhood where they raised their family.  Being local was extremely important to their decision to move where they chose.

 I wanted to be able to put this experience to positive use to help others going through this process and it was suggested for me to get my SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist) designation.  In December I took a 2 day class to learn more about the services available to help seniors and their families with the  transition of moving from a private residential home to the next stage of care.  After passing an exam I earned my SRES designation and am a realtor at Coldwell Banker Needham. I am constantly networking and inquiring about the many services available to my clients and welcome the opportunity to help anyone who may have a family member who is approaching this stage.

Wendy recently joined Coldwell Banker Needham.  She has been a realtor for over 8 years and knowing the area quite well can share a hands on local perspective.  She has also recently earned the SRES  designation and looks forward to helping other baby boomers as they approach their next transitions.  Feel free to contact her directly or click here if you would like to learn more.  

Footnote: click here for some  Tips for aging in place

Friday, February 10, 2017

It all starts at the local level

I started this blog to talk about local life in the area in the place I call home.  I have been immersed in the "local" Needham, Newton, Dover and Metrowest area most of my life albeit a detour to New York City for a few years.  I am proud to call Massachusetts my home and have been involved in all aspects of community life since birth. The values my parents instilled in me and my brother included respect, honestly, loyalty and a high level of ethics.  They always said we need to be able to look ourselves in the mirror each morning.   In fact, my mother told this to my daughter as one of her last words of advise while near death last year. This philosophy has always resonated with me and perhaps sparks much of my inner MO.  I am not one to sit back and let things happen around me, particularly if I am bothered.  I need to get involved and have been told that the word "rest" is not in my vocabulary.  That is why I am proud to be a local one.  I am constantly reading local newspapers, blogs and social media in my community and embrace opportunities to volunteer and participate in events as deemed interesting or important to better daily life.

Although this blog is not a political focus,  since the 2016 election I have learned that our voices start at the local level and we need to speak up if change is warranted.  It is our freedom and first amendment right to speak up but it is also our obligation to keep informed.  I have expanded my reading habits to include the New York Times, Twitter feeds, the Slate, CNN and other forms of social media to keep a balanced informed overview of what is going on in our rapidly changing world.  

Many changes are initiated at the top level but in a democracy, citizens at the lowest level have the right to be heard.  Town Halls and local representatives want to know their constituents concerns .  They are our representatives and their jobs are to represent our interests.  It is up to us to keep informed and be able to advocate for our interests in a well informed respectful way.  This means engaging in conversation.  Violence and rudeness to our opponents is not only harmful but it also makes it difficult to work together toward progressive change. 

One easy way to make your voice heard is to subscribe to the DAILY text feed.  A DAILY text each morning informs readers of relevant issues impacting U.S. policy and then based on your zip code  will connect you to your local government representatives where you can voice your concern.  As a result of this activity Senate offices are getting an avg of 1.5 million calls/day.  This week alone Senate offices have cited calls as an influencer in their votes. Local voices are being heard and this only takes about 5 minutes a day.  If you would like your voice heard text DAILY to 228466.  Join the "locals" to make a difference.

Wendy recently joined Coldwell Banker Needham.  She has been a realtor for over 8 years and knowing the area quite well can share a hands on local perspective.  She has also recently earned the SRES  designation and looks forward to helping other baby boomers as they approach their next transitions.  Feel free to contact her directly or click here if you would like to learn more.