In each of our situations, it may not be a specific rifle or piece of cookware, but in every family, there are usually special items that have very strong sentimental value attached to them.

This may seem like a strange and even somewhat uncomfortable topic to bring up, but, as SCI Foundation’s Planned Giving Specialist, I think it’s one that we all need to think about. Oftentimes, what may seem like insignificant items can have a huge impact on family relationships. And, as much as we all love hunting, we usually love our families more and want them to continue to have great relationships when we are gone.

Sometimes it’s easy. For example, out of all my siblings, cousins and extended family within my maternal grandparents’ family, I was the only one who was passionate about guns and hunting. So, it was very easy for my grandfather to decide to give me his guns. It happened one beautiful summer Sunday afternoon when I was a teenager and visiting with them while sitting in lawn chairs in their yard. My grandfather, my father and I were talking about various things (including guns and hunting). My grandfather got up, walked into the house, came out a few minutes later with a couple of guns and gave them to me. He knew that I would appreciate them and take care of them. He knew I was the only one within his posterity who would treasure them and the history behind them. And, it was true. I still have them and cherish them to this day.

Things like bank accounts, stocks, bonds and life insurance proceeds can easily be split among beneficiaries. However, what happens when there is one particular gun, knife or other item that more than one beneficiary would like to inherit because of its sentimental value? How can you handle this situation, so feelings don’t get hurt and relationships damaged?

I was lucky in that my parents and family planned for these situations ahead of time in a way that helped my siblings and me maintain great relationships after our parents have now been gone for several years. Here’s a couple of things they did to prepare.

First, my parents made sure we talked about this issue. They weren’t afraid to be open about it and asked us how we felt before they passed and it was too late. One afternoon, my oldest sister and I were visiting with my parents. My father brought up this topic and flat out asked us what of their things we felt strongly about and which we would like to have when they were gone.  My sister immediately pointed to a beautiful bronze sculpture of a bugling bull elk.  I was stunned. My sister doesn’t hunt at all and yet a bronze of a bull elk was the first thing she pointed out she would like to inherit! Who would have thought?

Well, I also liked that elk bronze. But I could tell how much my sister wanted it and my continued good relationship her was more important than fighting over it. None of my other siblings had an interest in it so it was decided; my sister would get that elk bronze upon the passing of my parents. We weren’t able to talk about everything, so it was decided that upon the passing of my parents that nothing would be allowed to be taken from the house until we had all had a chance to see everything and put a note on things that we had a particular interest in. It was decided that for those items that had more than one name on them, a drawing would be done of those who had put their names on it. This worked well for our family.

My wife and daughters don’t hunt, but they do support my passion for it. However, they joke with me that when I die, they are going to dig a big hole right next to my grave and bury all my taxidermy in it next to me!  I’m still not sure how I feel about that. It looks like I’d better have a plan for another place for it if I don’t want that to happen.

Very few of us like to think about estate planning, and even fewer of us like to talk about it. However, talking about it is the single biggest way to make it easier and more successful. So, talk about it. It’s much easier for parents to bring it up than the kids.

One reason I used “grandmas yellow pie plate” in the title of this article is because several universities have put together some great research and tips on transferring non-titled assets (like guns and pie plates) and they’ve titled the material “Who Gets Grandmas Yellow Pie Plate.” Just do an internet search for that title and you’ll find some great information.

Let me know if I can be of any help and answer any questions about this topic or any of the other great planned giving tools available out there like Charitable Gift Annuities and Simple Bequests that can help you, your family and even SCI Foundation.–Gordon Nelson, SCI Foundation Planned Giving Specialist