Your teenage grandkids probably don’t want to inherit the collectibles you now cherish. But don’t despair; the value one places on family heirlooms changes as one matures. To a 15 year old, grandpa’s journal is just a dust collector. When that 15 year old reaches 45, the same journal becomes a treasure of family history.
What treasures are stored in your home that you want to pass on to members of your family? Will your family members cherish and enjoy them as much as you do?
In my business as an Estate Personal Property Appraiser, I have discovered that deciding who gets Grandpa’s baseball glove or Grandmas cookie cutters can be among the most challenging decisions a family can make.
Although these items are just “stuff”, the personal belongings of a loved one can trigger memories and feelings about the person who once owned the item. I once watched two siblings resort to shouting to see who would get moms favorite Christmas tree ornament. I have often been told by Estate Attorneys that it is frequently the personal property, not the titled property that causes the most problems when settling an estate.
There are no magic formulas available for deciding who gets what, but research has identified six steps in the process. They are:
1. Understand that the gifting of your personal property may have emotional consequences for your family.
2. Determine what you want to accomplish. Is it your goal to maintain privacy? To have an equal and fair distribution? To preserve and care for the item given?
3. Decide what is fair in the context of your family.
4. Understand that belongings have different meanings for different individuals.
5. Consider distribution options and consequences.
6. Agree to manage conflicts if they arise.
Most of all, you have to decide to decide. After all is said and done, the property is yours and you may do with it as you please. Don’t let your family fight over your possessions. Be proactive; discuss the distribution of your property with your family members, and make a list so that your wishes will be known.
My mother spent the last decade of her life discussing with her five children who would get what. She kept a list, and put a sticker on the bottom of each item so there would be no question as to what her wishes were. Although there was one item that I wanted that went to a sibling, I was comforted to know that mom’s wishes were fulfilled.
For those of you with complex family issues, help is available. The University of Minnesota Extension Service has a workbook entitled Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate? that’s available by calling the Extension Service at 1-800-876-8636.
Originally posted 2013-08-27 19:19:00.