When a museum director called me a few months ago to ask if I would give the keynote talk at a community event she was planning, I thought, why me?
“You want me to talk about downsizing?” I asked, making sure the caller, Emily Blaugrund Fox, executive director of Albuquerque Museum Foundation, had the right person.
“Yes, clearing out the family home,” she verified. “If they have items of value, we’d like them to think of the museum when they do their estate planning,” Fox said. “While, we don’t want grandma’s cross-stitched hankies, if you have an old piece of Indian pottery from the area, we might take a look.”
For more perspective, I called Graydon Sikes, director of artwork for Everything But The House, (www.ebth.com). An online estate sale marketplace, EBTH helps folks downsize, or sell everything in a house from the mop and bucket to the collector car.
“While most households don’t have anything of significant value, when we review an estate, we sometimes find an object that does. Very rarely, we find something that is museum worthy,” said Sikes. “The No. 1 wish people downsizing have is that they want the items they love to go to those who will appreciate them,” said Sikes.
For downsizers or estate planners who want their valuables to fall into the right hands, and their assets support a good cause, Sikes and Fox offer these do’s and don’ts:
Do nothing. Though inertia is the common default, not planning for the disposition of your treasured belongings assures that someone who probably cares less than you do will.Put it in storage. Pleeeeeeeze do not pay to store your stuff. If you can’t comfortably live in your home with what you have, sell or donate what you don’t have room for.Leave it to the museum without asking. Some people stipulate in their wills that they want all their artwork and antiques to go to the museum, without ever asking the museum, Sikes said. They think they’re being charitable, but they put a terrible burden on the museum. The museum inherits all this stuff it didn’t want. Permanent collections are a liability. They cost money to insure, store, and maintain.
Ask your kids or other loved ones if they want anything. If they say they don’t, believe them.Tell your story. If an item has a great story, write it down and be sure the documentation conveys with the piece. That will add not only to its value, but also to the new owner’s appreciation.
Get an appraisal. If you believe you have something of value, get it appraised by a specialist in that genre. This will help you prove authenticity and value if you sell it. If you donate the item, an appraisal will help you support the tax write off.Donate without strings. Museums used to get into a bind by promising donors they would always keep a piece on display, or that they would never break up a collection even if they only wanted one piece. They got stuck holding these items into perpetuity. Today most museums agree to “unencumbered” donations. They make no promise that an item will be on display. They also are not bound to keep it.Find a good home. If the museum declines your donation, your pieces can still benefit the museum if you sell them and donate the proceeds. Go through an auction house or an online auction. Though you’ll pay a commission, you have a good shot of finding a buyer who will cherish the item.Give creative gifts. While institutions don’t want unsolicited items, some museums, universities, and even churches, welcome preapproved gifts of art or antiques. The institution can sell these items for cash.
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of three books, including “Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go. You may reach her at www.marnijameson.com.
Published at Wed, 25 Apr 2018 08:56:20 +0000