Families and transferring personal property heirlooms

Planning is key to having personal belongs transferred successfully as a result of downsizing or death.

Everyone has personal belongings that have meaning to them or to other members of their family. The questions becomes, “What happens to these things when I die?” and “Who decides who gets what?” Planning for the transfer of personal property is just as important to plan for as the transfer of titled property. Even if you don’t have title property, everyone had personal property that needs to be dealt with. Consequently, this becomes a challenge for the person who owns the property and possibly, family members who may be left to make decisions when a family members dies.

This issue is frequently disregarded until a crisis occurs. It is often assumed to be a minor issue or a matter that just takes care of itself. However, research on the subject indicates otherwise. The transfer of non-titled property is an issue that affects individuals regardless of their financial worth, heritage or cultural background.

Individuals fail to plan ahead to include non-titled property as part of this decision-making process. What surprises many is that the transfer of personal property can create more challenges then titled property. These challenges can include:

  • Items have different meaning to different family members; for some, sentimental value attached to an item is the more important issue rather than its monetary value
  • Each family member’s perception of “fair” is different
  • Communicating about the process can be difficult

There are no right formulas or solutions available to transferring person property, but there are factors to consider. One factor is understanding the sensitivity of the issue. Each family member will have a different feeling about the subject. Another factor is to define what you want to accomplish when distributing your personal items. A third factor is to determine what fair means in the context of the family. An additional task is to identify what each family member is interested in receiving and match that up to your wishes to transfer.

Decide which distribution option you would like to utilize and the pros and cons of each. Lastly, have a plan in place in case of conflict.

University of Minnesota Extension has a resource called “Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?”  This is a great resource to assist in transfer of non-title personal property. This process can be a time to rejoice a person’s life, share memories and a way to continue family traditions. Plan now to add this to your estate plan.

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