sealPurdue News

October 1997

Dividing grandma's goods need not lead to family feud

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Three days after Grandma's funeral is no time to start a family feud over her personal belongings, says a Purdue University expert on family finances.

Personal possessions can hold special memories for family members, and deciding how to distribute them may create problems. "Some people assume such decisions will take care of themselves," says Janet Bechman, Cooperative Extension Service specialist in consumer sciences and retailing. "But, in reality, the situation has resulted in many painful experiences that need not have occurred."

Grandma's private possessions may hold more sentimental value than financial value for her loved ones, Bechman says, so it's almost impossible to divide items fairly.

She suggests that individuals decide how their personal items be distributed before the time comes. "It is better to decide what will take place before a crisis occurs so that family members are not dealing with loss and pain at the same time," she says.

But whether a person is preparing to die or to move to a nursing home, or must give up possessions for another reason, Bechman says thinking about the change is painful. Talking about it is worse. "Discussing the distribution of personal belongings involves facing the issues of death and loss," she says.

If a loved one dies without distributing items, Bechman offers these methods of transfer that have been used by some families:

CONTACT: Bechman, (765) 494-8309; home, (765) 583-0659.

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