Family heirlooms are precious items that are inherited through an estate, which can have both sentimental and financial value. They can be passed down from generation to generation and are sometimes irreplaceable – but how do you create them?
In addition to the main function of an heirloom, items that are inherited through family estate planning offer the next generation a strong connection to their loved ones who have passed away, as they can give insight into a particular culture, history, or story about their family.
Whether you’ve inherited an heirloom or are thinking of starting a tradition for your children and your grandchildren, choosing how your legacy will be remembered is a personal decision for you to make. You need to consider what item, the right time to pass it down and for whom the heirloom is meant for. Creating a family heirloom can be tricky, so it’s important to consider the following factors during the process.
If you decide you would like the family heirloom to be an engagement ring, this can symbolise generations of love and commitment, and invoke stories around your loved one’s journey through marriage. Some families also prefer to select items that reflect their cultural or spiritual beliefs, for instance a Christian bracelet as a First Holy Communion gift, or a tallit as a Bar Mitzvah gift.
New Zealand’s native Māori people commonly use greenstone or paua for jewellery in their culture, which is traditionally passed down from generation to generation.
Type of tradition
Thinking about how you would like your chosen item to be passed down is a major decision in creating your family heirloom. Some heirlooms are passed down irrespective of gender or marital status, whereas some heirlooms are traditionally passed down from mothers to daughters, or fathers to sons.
Deciding what kind of tradition can be a complex choice. However, there is no wrong answer, and it’s a decision that is personal to you and your loved ones. Starting a conversation with your loved ones can also help you decide what the handing down process will look like.
Some families choose not to sell what has been passed down to them, either because they intend to pass it along to the following generation or because of their own connection to the heirloom. It’s a personal decision to its rightful owner and, in some cases, it can be appropriate to sell an heirloom such as a piece of furniture or an old coat.
Whether it’s an old watch handed down to you, or a wooden cupboard, some heirlooms can be worth more than you think.
Heirlooms that can last a long time, like beautifully crafted furniture, oil paintings, gold jewellery, antiques and even some clothing, can sometimes have a high resell value. This also suggests that items should be looked after appropriately, and it may be wise to research specific storage instructions and techniques, in order to preserve the condition and value of their heirlooms for many years.
Generally, an appraiser will help you calculate the value of your items. However, there are some factors to consider that can help you determine how much the item could be generally worth – for instance, how rare or old it is, whether it is still in good condition, or if it’s replaceable. If there’s an interesting a story or history behind the item, perhaps even connected to historic events, this can also increase its monetary value.
There are also economic factors that can influence its financial value, such as the country’s inflation rate and the changing values of certain types of antiques as fashions for certain pieces vary over time.
There are several reasons why families start these traditions, and it’s usually the memories, stories, or cultural beliefs associated with the item that give family heirlooms significant meaning.
Care should be taken to find the right objects to become heirlooms, and to develop clarity around the way they will be handed down over the generations. This will help avoid uncertainty and perhaps even arguments among descendants, especially if the items are valuable.
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