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Heirloom archaeology has been created by a non-profit group as it attempts to return heirlooms to families.

A non-profit organization out of Nashville run by Chris Hodge has taken on the difficult task of doing detective work to find the living descendants of the owners of various heirlooms and return them to their rightful owners.

A case in point is the discovery of an old family photo album at an estate sale in San Diego. In it were the pictures of one family that dated back to the 1890s. The only problem is that, other than a last name, the identity of the family was not known.

Hodge is trying to discover if the family in the pictures has any living descendants so the photo album can be returned to them for free.

CBS 8 reported this story in “Trying to return a family’s long lost memories.”

Hodge calls what he does “heirloom archaeology.” Over the last 15 years, his group has returned about 250 items to the families who have lost them.

It is not unusual for heirlooms to accidentally get lost. A house might get sold with items accidentally left in the attic or basement. An item could also be included in an estate sale by accident.

While the efforts of Hodge are commendable, it would be better to make sure your heirlooms do not accidentally get lost by your family. One way to help is to make sure you indicate in an estate plan what your heirlooms are. For example, if an old dresser is a family heirloom, your estate plan could give some details about it and how it came to be in your family’s possession. This lets your heirs know its importance and alerts them to take care of it.

It might be helpful to meet with an estate planning attorney to protect heirlooms and keep them in the family.

Reference: CBS 8 (Feb. 17, 2016) “Trying to return a family’s long lost memories.”

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.