Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Protecting your Heirlooms: Adding a Codicil to your Will

A few days back I blogged about advice given by Dear Abby to a couple who had inherited a lot of their family heirlooms. Part of that advice included giving the items to a consignment shop or thrift store. To read this post see,

It is so important to make sure that after you pass your family heirlooms and genealogy will be given to someone who wants and will take care of it. For this reason you have to take some proactive stances. What do you do with your genealogy research, especially in cases where your children are not interested in your work?

One idea is to add a codicil to your will that protects your research. A cousin of mine passed away from cancer a few years back. Two years prior to her death, she asked if I would be the executor of her estate. She asked, and added to her will, that I take her genealogical research so that it not only would be taken care of but also would benefit other family members. It was so important to her that her work be protected that the day before she died, she asked me if I had taken her genealogy and put it in a safe place.

The following is a suggestion for adding a codicil to your will so that you can help insure that your genealogy research will be taken care of. I am not sure of the original author of this codicil, it has been reprinted several times in various genealogy society newsletters including my local society, the Yucaipa Valley Genealogy Society.

“To my spouse, children, guardian, administrator and/executor: Upon my death, it is requested that you DO NOT dispose of any of my genealogical records, both those prepared by me and those prepared by others which may be in my possession, including but not limited to books, files, notebooks or computer programs for a period of ____. During this time, you may find someone in my family who would like to take custody AND (1) to preserve my research, and (2) to continue researching my family history. Should you not find this person to accept these materials with the stipulation to continue my research, I would like for you to contact (this blank should have some historical or genealogical society’s name, address and phone number)_______________________. They will know how my collection should be handled. Please know that my genealogical research is very important to me, that it consumed a great deal of time, travel, money and effort on my part. Therefore, it is my desire that my research be preserved at ___________ and be allowed to be made available to other researches in the future.”

If you have a will drawn up by an attorney, consult him or her about adding this type of codicil to your will. I would also suggest that you take the time to identify the person that you want to take custody of your research and ask them if they would accept this responsibility. It is a lot of work to be an executor and it is much easier when the deceased has made these arrangements prior to their death. I would also suggest that in addition to files, book, and computer programs that you add “old pictures” to this codicil. Often when the family historian dies and has left a lot of “old” picture that are unidentified, those pictures get tossed because family members have no idea who the people are or their importance.

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