Plan ahead to avoid family stress after you pass

Distributing personal property can be a challenge.

The loss of a loved one can be a very stressful time for families. This event is often compounded by the many decisions that families must face in a short period of time. However, when families take the initiative to plan ahead prior to a crisis or loss of a loved one, they can create opportunities for important conversations, consider many distribution options, reduce family conflicts and preserve family stories.

In an effort to assist families with this planning process, the University of Minnesota Extension developed Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate? This educational curriculum provides families with a variety of tips and resources to assist families with planning ahead.

To avoid common challenges, families are encouraged to consider the following tips:

  • Recognize the sensitivity of the issue
  • Determine what you want to accomplish
  • Decide what is “fair” for your family
  • Items can mean different things, to different individuals
  • Consider different distribution options and consequences
  • Agree to manage conflicts should they arise.

Communicating about inheritance can be difficult. Review the article, Critical Conversations About Inheritance: Can we Talk? This resource provides 10 tips for talking about this topic, and highlights issues such as: being clear and respectful, listening, and asking questions.

Deciding how to pass on personal possessions, especially those with special meanings, can be challenging.  The article, Families and Personal Property Inheritance: A Top Ten List for Decision-Making provides 10 helpful tips for families when making these decisions, for example: making decisions about non-titled property (i.e. personal possessions) can be tougher than decisions about titled property (i.e. car, house, boat, etc.); decisions can have consequences (emotional and financial); and being fair does not always mean being equal. 

Lastly, don’t forget the importance of preserving family stories that are associated with personal possessions or belongings. To assist families with capturing these stories, utilize the following Worksheet: Use Your Belongings as Props for Telling Family Stories. For additional resources to assist with Money Decisions, visit Michigan State University Extension.

Michigan State University Extension offers financial literacy and homeownership workshops throughout the year to help you become financially healthy. For more information of classes in your area, please visit either the MSU Extension events page or MI Money Health website. Additionally, you can take the Financial Health Survey at MI Money Health to access if you’re financially healthy and discover more ways you can improve your financial health. 

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