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Most parents want to give their children a better life than they have had. Starting with their offspring’s infancy, parents make every attempt to provide the best they can afford for their children.
By the time their children are adults, many parents have provided not only food, clothing and shelter for their children but public or private school education, extra lessons and sports activities, possibly a college education, a vehicle to drive…..The list goes on and on.
Somewhere along the way, most parents begin to think that their household goods and family “treasures” are items they would like to pass on to their children. Up to a point, this is a good idea. However, several obstacles may present themselves.
First, although parents assume they will outlive their children, that is not necessarily the case.
Here’s a true story that sadly does not have a happy conclusion. I knew of a couple who had one son. All their lives they pinched and scraped to build up a vast sum of money to leave to their son who had been provided with the finest of everything throughout his life. Unfortunately, the son was in a head-on collision when he was in his 40s and the parents both outlived him by another 40 years. Their daughter-in-law rarely visited them and their grandchildren grew up as strangers to them.
When the parents died, all their beautiful home furnishings were sold at auction because only the money involved was of interest to both the daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
A second scenario involving passing on your “stuff” to your kids goes like this.
A woman who outlived her husband had only one child. She had been an avid antiques collector for at least seventy years. In the meantime, the daughter had also been collecting her own “stuff” which leaned to contemporary minimalist furnishings.
When the mother left all her valuable collection to the daughter, the offspring had absolutely no interest in these items and found disposing of them a great burden.
Third, I knew of a retired diplomat who had survived World War II in Europe with only a few of the family portraits and other trappings of a formerly wealthy and aristocratic family. He lived out his seventies and eighties in gentile poverty but carefully guarded the houseful of remaining family household goods, all of which were by then extremely valuable.
When he died, both of his children arrived and promptly held an estate sale to glean as much money as possible from every item. Since both had become more enamored with alcohol by this time than with any other pursuit, it was likely that the results of the sale did not last long.
The moral of this story (and I’m sure you can’t possibly see your family’s scenario in any of these episodes) is that what parents see as important does not always result in what they envision as a legacy for their children.
Great-grandmother’s lace handkerchief may be priceless to you but may be worthless to your grandchildren. The elaborate family silverware may have been important when you were serving Sunday dinners at your home but may be just an item that has to be cleaned too often in the eyes of your daughter-in-law. The sword that you found in an old barn and carefully took care of for your lifetime may represent a four-wheeler that your grandson would rather have.
Enjoy the things that matter to you and ask your children what they would like to have left to them. No matter what your lifestyle, someone is going to have to dispose of your physical assets after you are gone. If you have kept every receipt since you were 21, someone is going to have to shred paper for quite a while.
Look through your home and see what is really important to you and dispose of what is not as much as you can. No one relishes cleaning out someone else’s basement or attic when they are grieving over losing you. The joy you have given other people is much more important to them than your “stuff” and the pile of magazines you just couldn’t get rid of for the past 25 years.
Carpe diem (seize the day!) and let go of the stuff that really doesn’t matter!
Sue Freeman Culverhouse has been a freelance writer for the past 36 years. Beginning in 1976, she published magazines articles in Americana, Historic Preservation, American Horticulturist, Flower and Garden, The Albemarle Magazine, and many others. Sue is the winner of two Virginia Press Awards in writing.
She moved to Springfield, Tennessee in 2003 with her sculptor husband, Bill a retired attorney. Sue has one daughter, Susan Leigh Miller who teaches poetry and creative writing at Rutgers University.
Sue teaches music and writing at Watauga Elementary School in Ridgetop, Tennessee to approximately 500 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. She also publishes a literary magazine each year; all work in the magazine is written and illustrated by the students.
Sue writes “Uncommon Sense,” a column in the Robertson County Times, which also appears on . She is the author of “Seven keys to a sucessful life”, which is available on amazon.com and pubishamerica.com; this is a self-help book for all ages.
TopicsCarpe Diem, Death, Inheritance, Wills
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