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NC and SC Estate Planning and Elder Law Firm

Friday, August 25, 2017

Into the Archives

If you have a few family heirlooms that you want to pass on to the next generation, you will probably remember to mention these items and your wishes regarding them to your estate planning attorney. These treasured objects tell the story of your family, and provide a tangible link to the past.

But you probably own other items of historical significance that you haven’t thought much about, and are not likely to mention in your estate plan. Old photographs, yearbooks, church directories, programs from community events, and cookbooks that were sold as fundraisers by local civic groups are as precious as gold in the eyes of historians. Unfortunately, many people end up tossing these items out without a second thought when downsizing or when taking care of a deceased loved one’s estate.

This is sad because other people want to know what life was like in their town, on their block, in their house. And some are interested in looking up the history of their family. These people are thrilled to look through paperwork that is thrown away without a second though.

In an article in the Mountain Xpress paper, an archivist in Asheville lamented that “90 percent of history remains in private hands.” The article explained how local archives are working to raise awareness about what they do. They want people to know that they can donate old letters, photographs, diaries, newspaper clippings, maps, meeting minutes or memos, and have them preserved for future generations. And they are especially interested in collecting items that tell the story of minorities, who were not always welcome to donate items in the past.

This isn’t a phenomenon that is unique to Asheville. Many communities in both North Carolina and South Carolina have local historical societies and genealogy groups that preserve the stories of local families, organizations, and businesses. Our public colleges, and the states themselves, also have archives.

Before you toss out old paperwork, photos, and organizational records, consider speaking with an archive to see if they would be interested in acquiring them. If you need help deciding what paperwork should be kept for legal purposes or shredded versus donated, an estate planning attorney can advise you.

An attorney can also help you look over any paperwork an archive asks you to sign. Some families like leaving future generations the option of taking stuff back from the archive, and that is also a task an attorney can help with.

Don’t underestimate the historical value of your estate. You might be surprised which of your items a local archive is interested in preserving.


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| Phone: 803-594-4453
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| Phone: 704-369-9977

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