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DeathWriting an ObituaryAn obituary includes a biographical outline and possibly a picture of the deceased. As early as possible, begin compiling the information for the obituary. Friends and family can help write this. Choosing a Funeral HomeHere are a few "starter" tips, questions and things to know when choosing a funeral home.Low-Cost Funeral OptionsToday's average funeral costs upwards of $7,755. Fortunately, there are ways to lower funeral costs. Average Funeral CostsHere is a list of the average costs of funeral items and services, taken from the National Funeral Directors Association 2010 General Price List Survey. Please contact your local funeral directors for a General Price List for prices in your area.Planning a Funeral Memorial FundsFamilies often want to set up memorial funds so money can be donated in memory of their loved one. If you are considering this, and are wondering where money can be donated, here are a few ideas to get you started.Choosing CremationHere are some starter questions if you choose to visit a crematorium (or what to ask your funeral director if you don't go yourself).Planning a Funeral Military HonorsMilitary Funeral Honors are provided whenever possible. Law mandates the rendering of Military Funeral Honors for an eligible veteran if requested by the family.Making Funeral ArrangementsMaking funeral arrangements involves many different tasks. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, since many of these things happen simultaneously.Preparing a EulogyA eulogy is a tribute to a person's life, usually read at funerals or memorial services. Choosing a CasketCaskets hold the body before burial or cremation. Choosing OrganBody DonationIf your loved one requested organ donation or that his or her body be donated to a medical school, here are some things to know.Dividing Up Family HeirloomsWhat happens to possessions after the owner has passed on? Family members might battle over Mom's emerald earrings, Dad's golf clubs or even Grandma's yellow pie plate. Choosing a CemeteryYou will need to choose a location for burial or cremated remains if the deceased has not previously paid for a cemetery plot. You may wish to have a trusted friend or family member assist you in gathering and reviewing the information. Planning a Funeral 5 Common QuestionsHere are answers to common questions about planning a funeral.Common Estate and Inheritance Tax TermsCommon Estate and Inheritance Tax Terms These are simple, starter definitions for estate and inheritance taxes. Check with your financial advisor before doing anything. Estate Tax The Estate Tax is a transfer tax, which taxes the amount of wealth tr
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Dividing Up Family Heirlooms

What happens to possessions after the owner has passed on? Family members might battle over Mom's emerald earrings, Dad's golf clubs or even Grandma's yellow pie plate.

"It's harder to divide possessions equally among family members," says Marlene Stum, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. "You just can't."

"Items are tied to family rituals and traditions," Stum continues. "For instance, the oak dining table might be worth $500 but when you look at the table you don't see [money], instead you see 'family dinners with Grandma'."

While speaking with Midwestern farmers for a social sciences project, Stum learned how hard it is for families to discuss end-of-life planning and solving disagreements over property. After years of research, Stum and others developed "Who Gets Grandma's Yellow Pie Plate?", a web site designed to help families talk about the importance of possessions and passing on family heirlooms to others.

Stum herself has dealt with this issue within her own family. As executor of her grandmother's will, Stum's mother was extremely frustrated with the division of her own mother's possessions. While she was meeting with the lawyer, the family went through the house and snatched up the sentimental items before the estate was even settled.

"Legally this is totally inappropriate and against the law," says Stum. "But many families do this. They run through the house, taking what they want, when really it's part of the estate."

Stum also mentioned other problem areas families have dealt with: breaking verbal agreements; a loved one with dementia, forgetting which items are promised to whom; and stepfamilies whose possessions have merged and are now harder to determine which item originally belonged to which side of the family.

"Things get mixed up after divorces. One girl mentioned how hard it was to see her stepmom wearing her mother's pearls," Stum says.

Begin the Discussion

Although it's a difficult topic and "conflict is inevitable," it's important to talk about the division of property sooner rather than later.

Stum has gone through her mother's home with her siblings and decided "who gets what." However, her mother doesn't like to talk about such things. This reaction isn't uncommon so Stum and the Pie Plate project leaders developed free articles and tips on how to start this conversation.

Stum highlighted four key steps of action you should consider when starting this process:

Figure out what you hope to accomplish: Do you wish to give certain items to certain family members? Or prefer to donate other items to museums or to sell the items to raise money for other family members? Think about what your wishes might be.

Think about what's fair: Who should get what? What is the fair process to make these decisions — both now and later?

Think about what items are meaningful to certain family members: Maybe a grandchild treasured a music box you once had; or a sister loved your old baseball memorabilia collection. Have conversations with family members about their connections and feelings towards certain items in your home.

Write a will. Then create a written list, detailing which family member receives which item. It's probably best to stick to major items at first then add on smaller items. Mention in your will that you have created this additional list and include this list with your will.

Think about your own possessions. Is there an item you'd like to go to a certain person?

"Consider giving possessions as gifts in advance," says Stum. "Graduations, weddings and birthdays are ideal times to give the items to pass on. You can tell stories that go with the items and respect the traditions in your family."

Thanks to Marlene Stum and the other researchers behind the "Who Gets Grandma's Yellow Pie Plate?" project.

Other Life Pages
DeathAverage Funeral Costs

Here is a list of the average costs of funeral items and services, taken from the National Funeral Directors Association 2010 General Price List Survey. Please contact your local funeral directors for a General Price List for prices in your area.

 Read More
Choosing a Casket

Caskets hold the body before burial or cremation.

 Read More
Choosing a Cemetery

You will need to choose a location for burial or cremated remains if the deceased has not previously paid for a cemetery plot. You may wish to have a trusted friend or family member assist you in gathering and reviewing the information.

 Read More
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Here are a few "starter" tips, questions and things to know when choosing a funeral home.

 Read More
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 Read More
Choosing OrganBody Donation

If your loved one requested organ donation or that his or her body be donated to a medical school, here are some things to know.

 Read More
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These are simple, starter definitions for estate and inheritance taxes. Check with your financial advisor before doing anything.

 Read More
Dividing Up Family Heirlooms

What happens to possessions after the owner has passed on? Family members might battle over Mom's emerald earrings, Dad's golf clubs or even Grandma's yellow pie plate.

 Read More
Low-Cost Funeral Options

Today's average funeral costs upwards of $7,755. Fortunately, there are ways to lower funeral costs.

 Read More
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Making funeral arrangements involves many different tasks. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, since many of these things happen simultaneously.

 Read More
Planning a Funeral 5 Common Questions

Here are answers to common questions about planning a funeral.

 Read More
Planning a Funeral Memorial Funds

Families often want to set up memorial funds so money can be donated in memory of their loved one. If you are considering this, and are wondering where money can be donated, here are a few ideas to get you started.

 Read More
Planning a Funeral Military Honors

Military Funeral Honors are provided whenever possible. Law mandates the rendering of Military Funeral Honors for an eligible veteran if requested by the family.

 Read More
Preparing a Eulogy

A eulogy is a tribute to a person's life, usually read at funerals or memorial services.

 Read More
Writing an Obituary

An obituary includes a biographical outline and possibly a picture of the deceased. As early as possible, begin compiling the information for the obituary. Friends and family can help write this.

 Read More