An heirloom is defined as a valuable object that has belonged to one family for several generations.
Whether this value is due to the object’s monetary worth or more sentimental reasons, if an heirloom is precious to you and your relatives then it is worth preserving properly. Safeguarding your heirlooms can range from practical storage methods to naming valuable assets in your will. Follow these steps to protect your family heirlooms so that they can be enjoyed by generations to come.
Name heirlooms in your will
While most adults have a will in place, especially if they have children or considerable wealth, many people only include a general outline of their finances and any property in their possession rather than a detailed list of specific assets. If you have precious family heirlooms, speak with an estate planning advisor to find out how best to highlight these in your will to stress their value and importance to those who are set to inherit.
If you think that there are certain family members who would like particular heirlooms, or if some of your beneficiaries are better placed than others to take care of your precious antiques, have discussions with your loved ones about what you should leave to whom. This way, when you are amending your will, you can name individual inheritors against each heirloom to ensure your valuables are best preserved in the future while avoiding any potential family disputes. These types of bequests are known as ‘specific legacies’.
Don’t store heirlooms in the attic
It is second nature for us to declutter our homes by keeping important possessions that are not often used out of the main living spaces, such as putting the hoover in the understairs cupboard and hiding the Christmas decorations in the loft. However, beware of storing your precious family heirlooms in the attic or basement. The extreme and unpredictable temperatures and presence of damp or humidity make these spaces unsuitable for storing antiques because over time older objects become increasingly susceptible to damage from the elements and fair best in a stable environment.
Keeping your heirlooms out of sight and out of mind also means that you are unlikely to monitor the wellbeing of these valuables as carefully as you should. The best way to safeguard your heirlooms against decay is simply to get into the habit of making regular checks – this will ensure that any issues are spotted before irreparable damage is done.
Use experts for restoration and repairs
Heirlooms are often extremely fragile and can require expert hands for restoration and repair. Even if the damage is slight and you think that you could fix the issue yourself, it is all too easy to make things worse.
For example, dull and tarnished antique jewellery can be ruined by the wrong cleaning agents, so many jewellers offer a specialist cleaning service for your baubles. It is worth spending money to make sure you are getting the best advice and care for your precious family valuables.
Write down the heirloom’s history
It is all too easy for the heritage of an heirloom to become lost over time. Write down the history of each heirloom to make sure that your family understand the stories behind them and why it is important that these precious possessions are properly preserved. Knowing the origin and age of your heirlooms also ensures that they can be correctly valued and helps the inheritors to understand their worth, both in terms of money and nostalgia.