Families and transferring personal property heirlooms

Planning is key to having personal belongings transferred successfully as result of downsizing and death.

Everyone has personal belongings that contain a meaning to them or other members of their family. So the questions become “What happens to these things when you die?” and “Who decides who gets what?” Michigan State University Extension wants everyone to know that 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 titled property, everyone has personal property (also called non-titled 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 member 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.

When individuals fail to plan ahead to include non-titled property as part of this decision-making process, surprises often occur. The transfer of personal property can create more challenges then titled property. These challenges can be; items having a different meaning to different family members, the sentimental value attached to an item is the more important issue versus monetary value, family member’s perception of fair is different, and communicating about the process can be difficult.

There are no right formulas or perfect solutions available to transferring personal 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 what distribution option you would like to utilize and the pros and cons of each, especially as it relates to potential. Lastly, have a plan in place in case of conflicts.

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

The Michigan Association of Family and Consumer Science will be offering “Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?™ on Tuesday, June 14, 2016, 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the 4-H Children’s Garden on Michigan State University campus. Find more information online.

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