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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to participate?
Who in my family can participate?
What's involved?
Will I be compensated for my time?
Who is conducting this study?
Why is this study important?
What are the risks and benefits to participants?
What about confidentiality?
What is the consent process?
What information is shared between family members?

Who in my family can participate?

We want to involve at least one older parent and two adult children in the same family as study participants. This will allow us to examine the meaning and experience of inheritance decisions from the perspective of parents/adult child and siblings in the same family. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first in the United States to involve multiple family members in a study of fairness and inheritance decisions.

We are starting by first identifying older parents who meet the eligibility criteria. Older parents will be asked to share names and contact information for at least two of adult children/step-children who they are willing to have us contact about participating. To make the interview process manageable we are asking that the older parent live in the Twin Cities metro area; and the adult children live within a two hour drive.

Using the contact information provided by the older parent, we will then send a letter to the adult children and each will be able to freely choose whether or not to participate. When we have at least one older parent and two adult children in the same family meeting the eligibility criteria AND voluntarily willing to participate, we will begin with separate interviews for each of the three family members.

Visit Get Involved

We realize that there may be additional family members that may want to also participate. For example, both older parents may want to be involved. More than two adult children may want to be involved. We would welcome additional family members to be involved and could likely interview up to six family members. Using the contact information provided by the older parent, we would again send a letter about the study to each additional family member. Each family member will then be able to freely choose whether or not to participate.

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What's involved?

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Will I be compensated for my time?

Yes, each family member participating will receive a $30 gift card as an incentive and as a way for us to recognize the time and effort you are contributing. If you complete a majority of the interview process, you may choose either a Cub Foods or Target gift card. We will also provide you with a complimentary copy of "Who Gets Grandma's Yellow Pie Plate?" an educational workbook from the University of Minnesota Extension for your personal use. This workbook is based on previous research findings by the same researcher. It is an example of how we will take what we learn from you in this study, and create educational tools to help other family members negotiate inheritance decisions.

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Why is this study important?

Families are in need of sound educational resources.
  • Older parents, adult children, estate executors, siblings, as well as a range of professionals (housing managers, attorneys, financial planners, geriatric case workers, senior move managers) are seeking strategies to reduce and/or manage conflict, to avoid potential pitfalls, and to encourage more and better family inheritance planning.
  • Without adequate planning and communication, inheritance decisions can carry a heavy price tag for family relationships across the generations. Decisions about titled and non-titled property have the power to punish, reward, protect, and control; they also provide continuity and/or disruption in family relationships, rituals, and traditions. The impact on family members can be financial as well as emotional.
  • Our society is facing a time when more and more families, and professionals working with families, will be experiencing the complexities of inheritance decision situations. The need for inheritance research-based best practices is expected to grow exponentially with the baby boom generation on the cusp of retirement, the oldest old as the fastest growing proportion of the population, and more four –to-five living generations of family systems.
  • The Family Inheritance Project will increase our understanding of the meaning and experience of inheritance decisions from older parent and adult child perspectives. As a result, a solid research base will help to inform inheritance decision prevention and intervention best practices. We will take what we learn in this study, and create educational tools to help other family members negotiate inheritance decisions. Our goal is to help parents and adult children negotiate the complexities of inheritance decisions in positive, constructive approaches.
There are too many unknowns, inheritance as a field of study is in its infancy.
The Family Inheritance Project is designed to address four issues that a review of existing research suggests need the attention of researchers:
  • Justice/fairness conceptual perspectives
  • Both titled and non-titled types of resources
  • Multiple family members perspectives
  • Family relationship ties to inheritance
A Fairness Lens
What is evident from available family and inheritance research is the consistent recognition and emergence of fairness. "I just want to be fair." It sounds so simple, but for intergenerational family systems, determining what a fair inheritance means involves complex decision making processes and outcomes. Social and interpersonal justice theories provide frameworks for examining fairness issues. If and how these previously identified justice issues and the meaning of "fairness" could vary within and across contemporary family systems in the U.S. remains largely unexplored.
Financial Assets and Personal Possessions
Many people assume that the most important and most challenging inheritance decisions will be about money or titled property. This one-dimensional approach to understanding inheritance simply does not reflect what family members say is important or their experiences. On the surface, decisions regarding who gets what non-titled personal possessions may appear minor and trivial as an intergenerational family issue. There is significant evidence from attorneys and other professionals involved in inheritance decisions to suggest that the transfer of non-titled property creates more challenges among family members than the transfer of financial assets. We will focus on understanding differences and similarities in financial assets and personal possessions as linked and important types of resources in families.
Older Parent, Adult Child, Sibling Perspectives
Decisions to "let go" of or "hold on" to property are made within the context of long, complex, and sometimes complicated relationships in families, the primary social system in our culture. Titled and non-titled property decision making processes and outcomes involve "givers" and "receivers" across the generations. Inheritance decisions call for an understanding of how both older parents and their adult children perceive and articulate fairness issues. Different perceptions are normal and should be expected among family members and across the generations. No published studies have focused on inheritance perceptions from older parents and adult children in the same family system. Our goal is to recruit older parents and adult children to understand intergenerational perspectives; and at least two adult children to examine sibling (or intra-generational) perspectives.
Family Relationship Ties to Inheritance
Decisions to "let go" of or "hold on" to resources and "what's fair" are made within the context of complex contemporary family relationships and systems/boundaries. We assume inheritance outcomes and processes is more about family relationships than the property/assets. How are prior and current family member relationships and family boundaries tied up with inheritance decision making? What do the expectations and realities of inheritance tell us about contemporary family structures and boundaries (who's in/out)?

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What are the risks and benefits to participants?

Risks
The risks involved in this study involve the possibility that certain questions may be considered too personal or sensitive. You may feel uncomfortable answering some of the questions we ask, not know how to answer the questions, or not be used to talking about certain topics with people you don't know. However, you have the right to choose not to answer any particular questions at any time.
Benefits
You may find it beneficial to talk about your inheritance decision making feelings and experiences. Your participation may encourage you to communicate with others, and make plans about transferring your own financial resources or personal possessions. Planning in advance and making more informed inheritance decisions can be an indirect benefit of participating in this study.

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What about confidentiality?

All recordings, surveys, and written records involved in this study will be kept private. Any data collected from other members of your family who participate will be held confidential and not be shared with any other family members. In any sort of research report or educational materials we might publish, we will not include any information that will make it possible to identify a participant. Research records will be stored securely and only researchers will have access to the records. Study data will be coded according to current University policy to protect your confidentiality. This means any names or identifiable information will be altered or deleted. Original interview recordings will be erased when the study analysis and writing is complete.

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What is the consent process?

As researchers we are committed to having our potential study participants fully informed about the research purpose, processes, potential risks and benefits, and confidentiality procedures. It is important that each participant understand participation is purely voluntary. It is also critical that participants understand potential risks, benefits, and what's involved. Our goal is to answer any and all questions participants may have before agreeing to participate. Click on the forms below to review specific information about consent issues. Before interviews begin, participants will be asked to formally sign the study consent form:

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What information is shared between family members?

Any data collected from other members of your family who participate will be held confidential and NOT shared with any other family members.

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