Who gets Grandma's pie plate? Division of possessions may add more grief after a death

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  • Laura Lee Sparks
    March 22, 2010 5:14 p.m.

    I come from a very large family, and when my grandmother passed on we had a reunion everything from her home was laid out and we all received numbers and little stickers. We then went inside and place our # on each item we wanted, if someone else wanted the same item, they also placed their # on it and it was up to them to talk it out discuss and figure out who should get it. The Tinkertoys that we all played with as children had the most #'s and it ended up going into our storage unit where we keep all the family reunion items. Every year, we all get to see the toys and now it has been a part of several generations of memories.

    Planning is the most important part of this process and working with a lawyer that understands how to enable you to pass down not just the tangible assets but the intangible assets as well.

  • rj
    March 22, 2010 1:16 p.m.

    In my family, my mother and everyone agrees that in the case of her death, things will return to those who gave the items to my mother first. When my husband"s parents died, we were out of state and were amazed to come and discover that family had just come in and taken what they wanted. My sister-in-law came to the door in a silk robe we had just given my mother-in-law. The family is large and we decided to avoid permanent feeling, to just let it pass, but I would suggest to other families to discuss and consider an agreed on approach, so all can have something to cherish and remember loved ones by..

  • Anonymous
    March 22, 2010 11:48 a.m.

    My father died 4 years ago and in his will, everything was left to his wife (my step-mother.) Though I try not to, I occasionally still grow frustrated knowing that I have received nothing from his estate, yet she retains everything my father had and also from his parents. Eventually all these things will go to her children (who will likely sell them.)

    It's forced me to become a better person and realize that worldly possessions have little impact on the person. I still retain memories of my father and all of the things that he's given me- his genetic code, his personal morals and his unconditional love. These treasures are something my stepmother wanted more than anything, and will never be able to have.

    Really, what is a family bible or pie plate compared to these things?

  • It happens
    March 22, 2010 11:39 a.m.

    My grandma died and one of her daughters got her cookbooks. No one on that side of the family speaks her native language, but they are not willing to give them to others who speak that language.

  • splitme2
    March 22, 2010 9:52 a.m.

    What happen when a parent thinks they are giving you the best stuff and you don't even care for it? My mother-in-law has already given us several things that I don't care for and has a few more that she wants us to have. Her daughter (my sister-in-law) likes those things but we don't feel like we can give them to her while mom is still alive. So I guess we just hold on to them until she is gone, then we can give them away.

  • Emjay
    March 22, 2010 9:23 a.m.

    Parents need to do proper estate planning before they die. failure to do this has caused a terrible rift in my family which has never been healed.

    The most important reason to do estate planning is NOT to avoid taxes or divide up property. The most important reason is to PRESERVE THE FAMILY.

    My dad was in denial about dying and refused to get it done even though we begged him for years. It has almost destroyed our family.

    Please, don't let this happen to your family. GET IT DONE.

  • Neveda Kirsty
    March 22, 2010 9:02 a.m.

    Our parents have given each of us a list, with pictures, of who is to get what. If anyone of us have a problem we and take it up with them now.

  • Mona
    March 22, 2010 8:59 a.m.

    DJ, in our case it was successful to work this out prior to my father's death (he was last to die). He had the four of us write down what we wanted, then he went through each list and where more than one person wanted the same item, he balanced that out so everyone was happy. Then he made a master list with what each person was inheriting.

    This was a healthy approach because he knew he wasn't going to live forever--no denial there--and wanted us to avoid conflicts.

    It was also interesting that there were a few items that no one really cared for, but they were such a part of the family that we each divided those up too. Thus my brother for example, has a set of silly ceramic chickens on full display in his kitchen.

  • Kathy B
    March 22, 2010 8:09 a.m.

    My sister and I inventoried all my mother's belongings and actually sorted them by category and market value. then we made notes of what items each of us would most likely have the most interest in. this list was copied for each of us to review and claim. this worked really well. Things no one wanted were put to an auction house and we all split the take on that. In case of books, it's time consuming but worth it to photocopy the important pages at least. My father's letters were important to us, so we copie all of them- one entire set to each of us, and divided the actual letters. The eldest got the first third of the letters, the middle got the middle letters, i was the youngest and got the last letters.

  • eldest
    March 22, 2010 1:04 a.m.

    I remember when my maternal grandmother died several years ago. There were many treasures in her basement. there were at least three things that I really wanted. When my mother asked me what I wanted, I told her, and everything I mentioned had gone to a particular sister. I finally asked her what was left that I could choose from. I then picked something from that group. Recently I saw that she was selling the one thing that I had wanted most. It was in awful shape and obviously been neglected. i felt really sad that it was in such condition and that she was selling it. Thank heavens I never said anything to her about it, but I was dissapointed to find out how greedy she was.

  • dj
    March 22, 2010 12:04 a.m.

    I am an estate planner. The parents and kids will not sit down and work these matters out prior to death.....they just won't. The best plan is to inventory and appraise everything after death (there are companies that provide this service at a nominal cost), give a copy of the inventory to each beneficiary, have them select the items they are interested in taking as part of their share. If more than one beneficiary wants a particular item, those parties can bid on the item, with the proceeds going to the estate for equal distribution to all beneficiaries. This is a time-tested method that has never "not" worked or had beneficiaries harboring bad feelings towards each other. Why? Because they all have an element of control over the situation. Bless the lives of your family by requiring in your estate plan that this method be implemented.

  • julie
    March 21, 2010 9:43 p.m.

    I like the idea of mom and dad, when they are older, writing memories to go with treasured items to be handed out. When mom and dad have grandchildren, start giving out the items to the children on mothers and fathers day, birthdays, etc. so the grandchildren can enjoy the items as they grow up, too. This helps clean out the important items. Then, when mom and dad need to downsize or move into elderly care, cleaning out the house isn't so stressful. It also provides opportunities for the grandchildren to talk to grandparents about the items when they visit. Then, the grandchildren learn about family traditions and customs. It is a win/win for everyone.

  • Doodles
    March 21, 2010 8:37 p.m.

    Since the possessions in question belong to the parents, I think that they should gift them however they choose. It is better for the children to be angry at the departed parent than to create issues between the remaining children. I have a list for my children. It was created with very little input from my children. It is not monetarily evenly divided, it is divided as I see fairly, with children who treasured a particular item being given that, and everyone getting something they have loved. I have written the reasons that I distributed each particular item. The list is no secret.

    I think it will work out better than the chaos that reigned after my parents died. Many feelings were hurt, and 15 years later, there are still issues over who got, stole, or appropriated different possessions.

  • Genell
    March 21, 2010 7:35 p.m.

    A very simple solution to the possessions of parents is to sit down with the children and decide who gets what. Make a master list. That is what my parents, myself and my two sister's did. So when they leave this life it is already settled.