Families and inheritance decisions: Examining non-titled property transfers

Marlene S. Stum

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


This study examines the transfer of personal possessions, which is a dimension of inheritance decision making from which few families are exempt but which largely has been ignored by researchers and educators. The qualitative analysis of a purposeful sample of individual family members who had experienced a transfer of non-titled personal possessions suggested the influence of six key themes. These included: (a) a sensitivity of the issue, (b) lack of goal discussion, (c) different perceptions of "fairness," (d) different meanings of objects, (e) lack of awareness of distribution options and consequences, and (f) potential for conflict. The themes identified reinforced that inheritance is not simply an economic or legal issue but one with complex emotional and family relationship dimensions. The findings provide the foundation for further research agendas and for developing educational resources to help family members communicate about and make more informed decisions regarding the transfer of non-titled property.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-202
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Family and Economic Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study and resulting educational materials development were made possible by funding from the University of Minnesota Extension Service (Creative Grant and Director’s Grant). Extension educators involved in this research study included Claire Althoff, Sharon Knutson, and Elizabeth Russell. Additional Extension educators involved in educational materials development included Shirley Barber, Christy Bubolz, and Chuck Leifeld.


  • Estate planning
  • Fairness
  • Family inheritance
  • Intergenerational transfers
  • Non-titled property


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