Can you be fair when you share an aging parent’s non- titled property?The University of Minnesota researchers who developed “Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate” have identified five factors that adult children should consider as they plan to transfer non-titled property when a parent relocates, such as moving into an adult child’s home:
1.The adult children and aging parent, if alive, need to understand the sensitivity of the issue of transferring nontitled property. This means that, for example, a Menorah is not just an item but something that reminds all five children of the happy moments during Hanukah celebrations. If the mother dies, then the father remarries, and after his death the Menorah goes to the stepmother’s kids, the adult siblings may be terribly bitter—not about the physical Menorah, but about someone who was never at their Hanukah celebrations getting their memories.
2.The family should determine what they want to accomplish in the transfer. Does the older family member want to find family members who will lovingly care for their
beloved (though not valuable) Santa collection? Do the adult children want to carry out family traditions, such as only the firstborn daughter in the family gets Grandma’s engagement ring?
3.The family should decide what is fair in the context of the individual family and how that family wants to pass nontitled items along. Is it fair that the firstborn daughter gets the engagement ring, or should the firstborn daughter pick names from a hat to see who gets it, or should sons get a chance to get it also? Sometimes it is impossible for families to be fair. For example, three adult children may want the baby cereal bowl with Little Red Riding Hood on the bottom. Because there is no fair way to decide among themselves, except to break the bowl into three pieces, they may just have to work together to see who gets it or give it to the next born baby or grandchild.
4.The family and adult children should understand that belongings have different meanings for different individuals. When a mother moves, the oldest adult child may have a loving memory of a valuable silver tea set, not for its monetary value but for the tea parties the mother had with her when she was a toddler. The mother may have been too busy to have those tea parties with the other children, and they may value the set only because of its monetary value.
5.Consider distribution options and consequences. You can help the family agree to manage conflicts before they arise and avoid common obstacles before the items are divided.