Your Family Memorabilia May be Sold at Auction When You Die
Have you ever been to an estate sale or auction? If so, you may have seen precious family photos, postcards, news clippings, or scrapbooks of the deceased being auctioned off for pennies. Too often, the executor of the estate views the family memorabilia as unimportant. If such items are not specifically bequeathed to a beneficiary in the deceased person’s will or living trust, the executor or trustee may simply sell such items along with the other personal property in the estate.
Unfortunately, even your own children may not want your family memorabilia when you die. Attend an estate sale being held by children of the deceased and you are just as likely to find family photos casually tossed out as if the items were being sold by a professional estate administrator. It is not uncommon for adult children to have no interest in keeping family photo albums, portraits, or even military honors of their deceased parents. Instead, these items are thrown in boxes and set out for strangers to sift through. Turner Law Firm, PLLC is sensitive and practical in discussing these issues.
When your heirs sort through the property in your estate, they may have to make difficult decisions about what they can keep, depending on the amount of property involved. Although you may understand your children cannot hang onto all your things, you may nevertheless be appalled at the idea of nosy neighbors and strangers picking through the mementos you collected during your lifetime. While it may be hard to believe your survivors would allow this to happen, greedy heirs are often driven to get any money they can out of the estate. If they think they can get a few bucks for a box of family photos, many have no problem offering them up for sale along with your dishes and old clothes.
Some family memorabilia, such as very old photos, postcards, letters, jewelry, baby books, and related items, simply cannot be replaced.
Control What Happens to Your Memorabilia
If you want to avoid the artifacts of your personal life being on display for bargain hunters after your death, there are several steps you can take as part of your estate plan to control what happens to your family memorabilia, including the following:
1. Talk to your children or other relatives about your preferences and last wishes. Let them know you want your privacy to be protected after your death. Ask them to handle your personal items in a respectful manner. If you do not want such items to be sold, ask them to throw the items away rather than including them in an estate sale. However, be aware your heirs may tell you what you want to hear and do what they please when the time comes.
2. Sort through your photo albums, news clippings, military honors, portraits, and related items with your children, grandchildren, other relatives, and friends when they visit. Ask them which items they would like to have. If you are willing to part with certain items, give them away now. Otherwise, leave instructions in your will about which items should pass to specific heirs. Discuss your concerns with your Turner Law Firm, PLLC attorney and ask that specific instructions be included in your will regarding how your family memorabilia should be handled.
3. Certain items in your estate may have historical value. For example, you may have postcards dating back to World War I, photographs of your town during its early development, or articles from old newspapers. Museums, historical societies, and genealogical societies often accept submissions of such items for their databases, records, and exhibits. If you believe your estate includes items of historical value, search online for an organization where you can donate some of your family memorabilia. Historical societies and genealogical societies often publish tips and articles about how to preserve your family memorabilia for the benefit of future generations.
4. If some of your family memorabilia is valuable, you may want to sell it rather than leave it to your heirs. Options for selling such items include antique dealers, swap meets, Ebay, and garage sales. By choosing which items to sell, you can maintain control over what happens to some of the personal property in your estate. As an added bonus, you can enjoy the financial rewards of selling your memorabilia or donate the money to your favorite charity rather than allowing your heirs to cash in.
If you want to take control over what happens to your family memorabilia, start grouping items for: Sell, Keep, or Toss . By thinking through these three “piles’” it will help you decide and what to convert to cash (Sell), what you want to keep for now and who to pass it on to (Keep) and finally trash or give away to charity those items you do not want nor does your heirs (Toss).
If you are planning to move into assisted living or a nursing home, Sell, Keep, or Toss will help you downsize, which can be a real challenge if you have a lot of stuff. It is also is a good practice for executors, trustees, and children helping their parents downsize. Turner Law firm can give additional advice in this area.