No Worries, My Will Gives Away My Genealogy Stuff

It’s easy to give orders to be carried out after your death. But there’s one fact that happens after you die:

You are dead and things are really out of your control.

Simple, but true. When you are dead, you are dead. You won’t be around to make certain your heirs, executors, etc. do things exactly as you want. I know you can leave a will, but there are some realities of wills, executors, heirs, judges, and how they can interact with a stack of papers that have no monetary value.

Occasionally I hear people say “I’m going to have it in my will that my genealogy papers are to go to my local genealogical society (or some other group).” I took care of it. That was easy.

The old farm toys in the basement may have more value than your genealogical papers.

Fine.

Questions:

  • How organized are your papers? Is that group going to want several boxes (or more) of materials that are not really organized?
  • Is that group going to want all your material including that which has nothing to do with their local area of interest?
  • Is the judge, executor, and others involved in the settlement of your estate really going to be overly concerned about what’s done with your boxes of papers? Ask yourself this question honestly. Have you been intimately involved in the settlement of an estate to see how things sometimes work? You may value your papers a great deal, but others might not.
  • Things that have a measurable financial value tend to get prioritized in an estate settlement. Unfortunately genealogical papers don’t usually have financial value.
  • Photocopies of documents and books that are readily preserved elsewhere are not high priority items for any historical agency or archives. They prefer things that are unique or not already available elsewhere.
  • Will the society where your papers are going be in existence in five years, twenty years?
  • In addition to giving an organization a bunch of material they will have to pay to maintain, have you given any donation or financial compensation to this organization? Preservation costs money. They may not be able to afford to maintain your “gift.”
  • Have you asked the group if they want your stuff? Any organization is well within their rights to refuse your offer. You won’t be around to figure out a workaround because you are dead and your heirs may not care.

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