Saturday, February 29, 2020

Is an inheritance actually the cherished gift as intended or a burden to the beneficiary?

Passing down property assets to the next generation always starts with well meaning intentions. Parents and grandparents often want to pass their cars, collectible tangible property and sometimes real property to their heirs. While it sounds exciting and wonderful, though, often there is a burden to fulfilling this wish.  

Before setting anything in stone, in a perfect world the owner of such assets should ideally discuss the practicality of intentions with the intended recipient before finalizing their estate plan.  Often though this can become emotional and there may be different goals for each party.  If the gift is supposed to truly benefit the recipient it is in the best interest however to be sure the recipient a) wants the intended gift and b) has the resources to maintain the assets  required to retain value.  I also think it is important to meet with an Estate planner/lawyer to create a plan that will be easily passed onto future beneficiaries.   This professional may be more objective and help guide sometimes difficult conversations.  

When my Dad passed away in 2013 his dream was to give his 2008 Lincoln Town car to my son (then 24 years old).  He lived in Brooklyn New York.  My parents housed the car in Tarpon Springs Florida and it had never been north.  First of all how many 24 years old would be seen driving a Town Car around NYC?  The car needed to be winterized and parking in NY is near impossible even with a compact size.  The cost to garage the car in NY would be prohibitive and even alternatively keeping it in Massachusetts where I live would be over $2000 month,  added to insurance costs to keep it running periodically. Although my son was hesitant to turn down such a gift from his deceased Grandfather, we quickly learned the gift would in fact actually become a short lived memory with a longer experienced financial burden.  Ultimately we ended up selling the car and giving my son the proceeds and the retired license plate as a token memory.  (of note,  my Dad was a teacher of Jewish History and often spoke of the story of Masada as his inspiration of standing tall against oppression- thus his customized license plate lives on in our family).  

Likewise my Dad collected tens of thousands of books and antiquities in Florida that were near impossible to relocate to Boston where we live.  We tried selling and donating many of these items.  It took close to 2 years to downsize and clean up a large portion of items that we could not possibly store.  We thought briefly about keeping the condominium they owed and retrospectively could have kept it as an investment but found it easier to sell since my brother and lived out of state.

I often hear clients who own multiple properties such as a beach or mountains home say that they would like to keep them in the family.  While all sounds good,  one needs to step back and really consider the practicality.  Often kids live far away and visit infrequently.  They have their own local areas to vacation.  Remote property management is costly.  There was a great article in this weeks WSJ addressing this topic which you can read here.

I have read many books on downsizing and preparing for final moves as we age.  A few good books on the subject include:  

Moving in the Right Direction by Bruce Nemovitz-click here
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson-click here

If you do decide to retain a real estate property you may want to look at opportunities to form a 1031 exchange which is a tax vehicle to make the property an investment option. There are certain time period requirements on the acquisition and disposal of a qualified property and although, I am not an expert on this area I do work with specialists who are.  They can help guide you on the legal and financing end, while I can help with any real estate needs.  

The key take away from this blog post is the importance of having a plan and having it documented while you are able to make decisions that are practical and will actually benefit your beneficiaries.  While we may perceive gifting tangible items to our loved ones,  remember they are your loved ones and you want to look out for their best interest although sometimes this may conflict with your own expectations. 

Wendy is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She enjoys working with senior clients. Having gone through the process of downsizing and being on the beneficiary end of the cycle a few times and has learned much and is happy to share her knowledge. She can be found at

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

E Coli risk and the inherent health risks we face today including Coronavirus

I am a salad lover.  Up until last week I would always choose a salad over a sandwich or other appetizer when eating out.   I recently read an article about E Coli risks and have thus been researching this subject since there have been multiple outbreaks.  From what I have learned I thought it important to share my data.

We hear the touts of deregulation helping our economy and how the economy is booming.  Just listen to the SOTU last night as an example but in realty there are many ways that deregulation is creating increased day to day risks for our well being.  I am not here to talk policy but just to highlight a few health concerns that should alarm all of us.

Periodically there have been recent E Coli outbreaks.  Some can cause irreversible health issues and even kidney failure or death.  The risk can be quite dangerous.  One common thread in some of the literature I have read is that due to deregulation there are less inspectors to insure higher safety precautions before lettuce is brought to market.  As illustrated in a photo below there are three points where contamination can occur in the process of growing lettuce to its delivery to the consumer.  This may also be true in other products but I am focusing on lettuce here.  As a consumer it is up to each of us to be educated on what we eat,  what we consume and how to be our own advocates.   It is becoming increasing clear that each person is out for himself.   It is important to wash and if possible cook produce to kill any infectants.   A few articles below site the cause of these breakouts, how to prevent them and how to mitigate exposure.

-Don't eat romaine lettuce - a warning in a December article during an E Coli breakout is here

-An explanation of the role in deregulation in causing E Coli outbreaks is here

-Methods to mitigate ones risk in today's Boston Globe is here

-Untimely communication of potential risk by CDC and FDA increased our risk click here

As for other health concerns such as coronavirus,  I have heard mixed reviews about wearing masks to limit exposure.  One health professional today said the risks to the American public warrant the same procedures one would take with a flu outbreak.  If you saw the movie Contagion a few years ago you will understand why I am writing this blog post.  If you have hypercondriac tendencies like I do you may not want to watch it.  I keep having images echoing in my head that these outbreaks occur and the public not being adequately informed before becoming pandemic.

update 2/6 Attached is an up-to-date link to a map of the Coronovirus outbreak from today's NYT.

There are many health risks we can not avoid and some where we can use common sense to mitigate danger.  My advice is to be your own advocate, wash your hands frequently and if in places where you feel there are major crowds perhaps wearing a mask is a good idea.  I still love salads and wish I could order these whenever I go out to eat.  I will now, however,  only consume cooked vegetables when available if I am not absolutely sure of the sourcing.  I hope this can change in the future.  Lets all work together to stay healthy and minimize public risk.

Wendy is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She enjoys helping people and writing her blog to share perspectives on how to make the world a better place.