About This Program
This project serves as a model for how research can help address critical issues facing today's families, a goal of the land-grant university Extension system. Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?™ was created in response to the following needs:
- There are powerful messages in "who gets what" in times of inheritance, including personal possessions. Personal property may or may not have much financial worth, but often has a great deal of sentimental or emotional value.
- Families often find inheritance decisions about non-titled personal property more challenging than titled property.
- While many are familiar with the need to have a legal will before they die, few have planned ahead to include non-titled property in the decision-making process.
- When families fail to make informed decisions about personal possessions, misunderstandings and conflicts can lead to damaged family relationships and costly court battles. Planning ahead allows for more choices, the opportunity for better communication about what "fair" means, and results in fewer misunderstandings and conflicts.
- As baby boomers and their parents and parents-in-law age, more and more families will be faced with inheritance decisions. Almost everyone will face this issue at some point in their lifetime.
- When the project began in 1994, few resources existed to help family members make informed decisions. There was also very little research about families and inheritance decision-making, especially regarding non-titled property.
Original Project Development Team
This project was originally developed by a team of researchers and educators from University of Minnesota Extension.
The lead researcher and author for the project is Marlene S. Stum, Ph.D., professor and Extension specialist in family social science. Marlene's research and teaching through Extension focuses on understanding economic well-being issues facing later life families. She has developed numerous educational resources to help people make more informed decisions about inheritance, financing long term care, and end-of-life issues. Marlene's background includes a Ph.D. in Adult Education and Social Gerontology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a M.S. in Family Economics from Kansas State University. Her expertise includes more than thirty years of teaching in higher education, primarily in family economics and social gerontology. Find out more about Dr. Stum’s work here: Family Social Science: Marlene Stum.
The other team members for the original project were Extension educators with financial management expertise and many years of adult education expertise. These team members were located in the network of county Extension throughout Minnesota and included:
- Claire J. Althoff, Wilkin County
- Mary J. Anderson, Wright County
- Shirley L. Barber, Ramsey County
- Christy A. Bubolz, Koochiching County
- Sharon S. Knutson, Norman County
- Charles L. Leifeld, Washington County
- Elizabeth H. Russell, Chippewa County
Project Development Process
This project is based on the real-life experiences of family members, attorneys, and other professionals who help family members make inheritance decisions.
We began by conducting qualitative research to learn about the decision-making issues confronting families when faced with personal property decisions and inheritance. Our findings suggest six key factors that are important to successful property transfer decisions.
- Understanding the sensitivity of the issue of transferring non-titled property.
- Determining what you want to accomplish in the transfer.
- Deciding what is "fair" in the context of your family.
- Understanding that belongings have different meanings for different individuals.
- Considering distribution options and consequences.
- Agreeing to manage conflicts if they arise.
These factors provide the guiding framework for the workbook and video. A discussion of this research can be found in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues article by Marlene Stum, Families and inheritance decisions: Examining non-titled property transfers [2000 Summer, 21(2)].
Our research also provides in-depth insight into the meaning of "fairness." These findings helped us develop practical worksheets to help family members sort out the meaning of fair inheritance processes and outcomes. More about our research on fairness can be learned about in Dr. Stum's 1999 article, "I just want to be fair: Interpersonal justice in intergenerational transfers of non-titled property" [Family Relations, 48(2), 159-166].
This project was not only guided by our research findings, but also by the expertise of a Project Advisory Committee. The individuals listed below were involved in clarifying education needs and approaches, identifying relevant research, and reviewing and developing written and video resources. The Project Development Team and Advisory Committee worked together to conduct extensive piloting and materials development before our educational resources were made available nationwide.
The Project Advisory Committee for the original project included:
- Todd Andrews, Attorney — Minnesota Continuing Legal Education
- Betty Berger, Attorney — Minnesota Board on Aging
- Timothy Blade, Professor — Design, Housing and Apparel; University of Minnesota
- Steve Brand, Attorney — Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi; Minneapolis, MN
- Richard Hawke, Attorney — Richard D. Hawke's private practice, Roseville, MN
- Rosalind Keppler, Attorney — Kuehn & Keppler, St. Paul, MN
- Francis Long, Attorney — Long & Collins, Minneapolis, MN
- Kris Maser; Attorney — Maser, Amundson & Crist; Minneapolis, MN
- Patricia Miller, Attorney — P.J. Miller Law Offices, St. Paul, MN
- Jane Plihal, Associate Professor — Vocational Technical Education, University of Minnesota
- Paul Rosenblatt, Professor — Family Social Science, University of Minnesota
- Michael Scherschligt — School of Law, Hamline University, St. Paul, MN
- Lloyd Stern, Attorney — Hessian, McKasy & Soderberg; Minneapolis, MN
- Patti Sullivan, Attorney — Ulvin & Sullivan, St. Paul, MN
- Mary Ward, Attorney — American Banks Trust Department, St. Paul, MN
Who Gets Grandma's Yellow Pie Plate?™ has been nationally recognized in:
- The New York Times
- The Wall Street Journal
- AARP The Magazine
- Time Magazine
- US News and World Report
- National Public Radio, Morning Edition
Read What People Are Saying about this program.
To learn about the resources used for the related project materials, see Learn More.
For additional information on Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?™, please Contact Financial Capability.
Find out more about personal property and land transfer: