Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Book review - The Boomer Burden
The Boomer Burden - dealing with your parents' lifetime accumulation of stuff
Author Julie Hall (The Estate Lady)
Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers
£7.64 from Amazon
The review copy of this book arrived just as I was setting out for Oxford to attend my friend's funeral so I was in the right frame of mind for reading about the issues that Julie Hall deals with in this very practical guide. Like most people, though, I tend to avoid discussions about age, infirmity and dying, thinking there will be time enough to get things sorted. What I have learned from reading The Boomer Burden is that simple preparations now will save a lot of distress and difficulty later.
'Boomer' refers to those born between 1946 and 1964 so, technically, I don't fit. I missed out by about 4 weeks, having been born at the end of 1945 but I hope no-one will hold that against me. There have been many significant changes in society in our lifetime: people live longer; are more likely to leave home to study and work and establish their own home; are generally wealthier than previous generations so acquire far more possessions. These changes have brought many benefits but we haven't yet had time to establish systems for dealing with some of the problems that arise when traditional patterns of living are changed.
Many of my contemporaries, including my husband, have parents who are now in their eighties and nineties. Sooner or later, they have to make difficult decisions about care and living arrangements, about assets and property and disposing of all that stuff their parents have accumulated in their long lives. (The burden that is referred to in the title is the stuff and not the aged parents!) It is inevitably more painful and distressing to have to make those decisions when the family is already distressed by the infirmity or death of their parent than if they had been discussed and planned together at an earlier stage.
Julie Hall is an expert in valuing and liquidating personal estates. She has witnessed the problems that families face when their parents have left no will or clear instructions about their wishes. In The Boomer Burden, she identifies all the potential difficulties and offers her professional advice on how to deal with them and, better still, how to avoid them in the first place.
She deals with issues like the importance of making a will and leaving clear instructions about property and assets; how to protect your vulnerable relatives from unscrupulous scammers, neighbours and other scoundrels; how to get property valued and how to dispose of the junk and she gives some really useful advice on how to initiate those difficult conversations with the ageing parents and with the scattered siblings. Each chapter has a useful check-list and some real-life anecdotes to illustrate the situation.
The sticker on the cover says that this is 'A must-have book for every baby boomer' but I would say it is a must-have book for every family. If we could all talk more openly about what we would like to happen should we become too infirm to manage in our home, where we keep our important documents and what we would like to happen to our treasured possessions, it would prevent a lot of heartache for those who have to sort things out after we die or have to move to more suitable accommodation. It might also prevent family quarrels and even lawsuits.
It occurred to me that there are two ways of looking at the 'boomer burden' - the boomer generation has to deal with what their parents have accumulated in a long life, but we are also living longer and accumulating even more than they did. Do we really want to leave our children with the task of clearing our attics, cupboards and shelves? Reading The Boomer Burden has inspired me to start de-cluttering now. Well maybe after Christmas?