Yesterday’s hint : If you care then share. Many families care about the belongings they inherit from family. Items trickle down the generation chain, sometimes accompanied by a detailed oral history. Frequently this history gets embellished or diminished. Many times this history quietly recedes into the realm of the forgotten. Sadly, not shared so that others may care.
Capturing family history should also include recording details about heirlooms. However, families neglect sharing and recording important information about ancestral belongings. Lapses in conveying historical ownership is not the largest error. Omitting what the items are and why they are important is an even greater transgression.
For instance, take my client with the Tiffany mirror. Purchased two generations back from Tiffany in New York City, the mirror was an important piece at the turn of the century. In just one century, this purchase information got lost in everyday life. This error almost cost my client over $30,000. Thank goodness she called in Val-the-Evaluator! To help support all the links in your family personal property chain I offer some tips.
Tips to support history and value of family heirlooms:
1) Some people prefer to record details by affixing notes or information directly to a piece. Benefits of this technique include: associates information with the correct piece, easy to gain access to the information, and quick to implement. However, if the scrap of paper gets lost or the tape loses adhesion there goes the information. Poof history gone!
2) Record histories. Encourage elders to write, tape or video their recollections and stories. Accuracy is usually greater when the original owner participates in the recordings. The sooner the better, before memory gets stale. Modern technology makes this step easy and convenient. Relying on verbal histories or memory is risky, as errors occur and details get forgotten. Always make a back up copy of histories and store each copy separately.
3) Consider having a professional record the history while valuing the item in a formal appraisal. This maintains the family history and ownership records, while allowing heirs to have an idea of the monetary importance of each piece. Identification of the property allows you to adequately insure the property. Once complete, store the appraisal with other important documents. Assimilate receipts or written histories into the report. Background and educational information is often conveyed in a quality report. Photographs match each item with a description and value. This visual ensures proper identification at a later date.
4) We live in a disposable society. Tastes and styles rapidly change. These societal trends can create confusion. Which pieces are worth something and which are not? Commonly, I see people surmise that the brown piece of depression era furniture has the greatest worth in an estate when if fact it has no significant value. Instead, they carelessly offer a piece of Art Nouveau pottery worth 5x the brown hunk of firewood( whoops -I meant wood furniture) for a few dollars in a garage sale.
5) A history guides family members. It encapsulates what is truly important and special about certain pieces of personal property. Historical information to support objective decisions about what to keep vs. what to sell during downsizing or family distribution .
If you need help identifying or valuing items to compile a complete history for your favorite heirlooms, we are available to help. Call us for a free telephone consultation today at 770-757-1479.