NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Who Gets Grandma Yellow Pie Plate

Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?

Most people have personal belongings such as wedding photographs, a baseball glove or a yellow pie plate, that have special meaning for them and other family members. These types of personal possessions, as well as jewelry; stamp, gun and coin collections; quilts; or sports equipment, are referred to as nontitled property because no legal documents (such as titles) exist to indicate who officially owns them.

What happens to your nontitled personal belongings when you die? Who decides who gets   what? Planning for the transfer of personal belongings is a challenge facing owners of the items and, potentially, family members and legal representatives who may be left to make decisions about the items when a family member dies.

Nontitled property may or may not have financial value, but it often has sentimental, historical or emotional value both for the giver and receiver. Many people are familiar with the need to make decisions regarding the distribution of a home, savings account or vehicle when they die. In many cases, however, nontitled property is not included in the decision-making process.

Decisions about what to do with a person’s belongings often are not made during ideal circumstances. Frequently these decisions are made in times of family crisis, such as when a death has occurred or when an elderly family member moves to a health-care facility. The process becomes more challenging and sensitive if family members are left to make the decisions when they are grieving over the loss of a relative, selling the home in which they grew up and/or facing the increasing dependence of an older adult.

What surprises many people is that the transfer of nontitled personal property often creates more challenges among family members than the transfer of titled property. Why? Personal belongings usually have different meanings for each individual. The sentimental value or meaning attached to the personal property often may be more important than the financial or dollar value.

If you are thinking about the distribution of your nontitled property, you have several questions to ask yourself. What do you hope to accomplish when your nontitled property is transferred? Have you thought about what’s most important to you? If you have a co-owner, such as a spouse, do you know what is most important to him or her when transferring mutual personal property? Have you taken time to think about, share and discuss your transfer goals?

For more info on distributing personal property, the publication, “Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate/” is available at : http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/fammgmt/fe1521.pdf or scan the following code:


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