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NC and SC Estate Planning and Elder Law Firm

Friday, March 23, 2018

Are You Your Family’s Archivist?

When Mary’s parents passed away, Mary inherited the house she grew up in. And everything in it. Figuring out what to do with her family’s “treasures” was more work, and more rewarding, then she could ever have imagined. Assisting her with the task gave our firm a crash course on archiving with an eye toward estate administration, the highlights of which we're ready to share with you.

Document Review

It was no secret that Mary’s mother was something of a paper hoarder. Not in the reality TV need and intervention way, but in the sense that everyone who knew her knew to expect newspaper clippings she thought they would be interested in tucked into birthday cards and distributed to them in periodic mailings.

Mary hoped that her mother had some sort of organizational system in place that would make it obvious why certain papers and boxes were stored where, but such was not the case. She found bank statements mixed in with recipes clipped from Martha Stewart Living and medical records tucked into the pages of photo albums, perhaps for safe keeping.

We helped Mary develop a plan to sort through things. From an estate administration perspective, we suggested she keep legal documents, financial statements, bills, and medical records for future reference. She also kept separate boxes for photos and family memorabilia.

The National Archives has great advice on how to identify, handle, store, and display papers and photographs, which we now recommend the designated family archivist check out.

How Did This Get Here?

It turned out Mary was not the only person interested in her family’s papers. When she came across a box in the attic full of yellowed pages written in a beautiful script, she realized her father (or perhaps grandfather) had stashed the ledgers from a store Mary’s great-uncle used to run there.

She could have thrown them away, but instead, she reached out to the local historical society to see if they might want them. Short story, they did! We worked with Mary to document and appraise what was being donated and crafted a legal document that would allow her or a family member to re-take custody of the collection if it was not well-preserved or digitized within a certain number of years.

Donating items to museums, historical societies, or other organizations does not have to be any strings attached endeavor. This is particularly true as the donated item’s value increases. If you have specific wishes regarding a piece of your family’s history, don’t hesitate to make it known.

Appraising the Situation

Speaking of appraisals, Mary also found the old cash register from her great-uncle’s store. She had watched enough American Pickers to know what she had found was something special. She reached out to us, and we helped her find an appraiser that could tell her more about the history of the register and how much it might be worth.

In this case, Mary was the sole heir, so she can do whatever she wants with the register and the other treasures she found in the house. In other cases, we have helped families divide such assets up equitably, or find a seller that can get a good price for them.

More Than a Pile of Papers

Becoming your family unofficial archivist is a daunting task. If you have questions about what documents should be kept for estate administration or other legal purposes, or need assistance with the appraisal, distribution, or sale of assets, please feel free to reach out.

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Monk Law Firm, PLLC assists clients throughout Charlotte, Rock Hill, Fort Mill and the surrounding areas.



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1701 First Baxter Crossing, Suite 101, Fort Mill, SC 29708
| Phone: 803-594-4453
13315 Carowinds Blvd., Suite Q, Charlotte, NC 28273
| Phone: 704-369-9977

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