Collections of flag books (and flag- and symbol-related documentation) of significant scholarly value are often dispersed when their owners die or are incapacitated without having made adequate provision for their collections to be preserved in permanent institutions.
The heirs to these collections sometimes do not fully appreciate their scholarly importance, or the benefit to the world of preserving their integrity and availability to scholars. They may therefore take a short-term profit by selling off the most valuable books, and discard the rest, whose value they do not understand. Even if they wish to preserve the collection for scholarly use, often they do not have the expertise or resources to do so.
The best solution to this problem is for collectors, while still competent, to draft and put into place provisions to move their collections out of their estates.
- This can be done by separating out a life estate (so the collector can keep possession while he lives) and donating the remainder to a permanent institution like a university library.
- Or it can be done by creating a trust and donating the collection there. When the collector dies (or earlier if he wishes) the collection will not pass to his heirs, but to an institution in accordance with his wishes.
- The same goal can be accomplished by will.
But because people are naturally disinclined to contemplate death, they often avoid making these provisions while still competent to do so.
Or they may not wish (or might not be able to afford) to spend the money needed to draft the proper legal instruments.
Or they may trust their heirs to make an appropriate disposition. But this trust sometimes turns out to have been misplaced, because their heirs turn greedy, or because although they mean well they cannot manage the complicated business of placing a collection, or because they need to clear out the place where the collection was stored and don’t have time for a careful placement. There are many awful examples of irreplaceable and carefully accumulated research collections having been abandoned or destroyed by heirs who did not understand their value or significance.
Even if the heirs dispose of the collection properly, there may be adverse tax consequences to passing the collection through the estate. By contrast, donating the collection or its remainder may have tax benefits to the collector during his lifetime.
To help with the problem of disposition of collections, the Foundation has created a Collection Preservation Program. It has two aspects: the Legal Assistance Path and the Escrow Path.
The Legal Assistance Path pays for legal assistance to draft the necessary documents. This is helpful where cost is a genuine obstacle to making these provisions, but even where cost is not a barrier, the availability of a Legal Assistance grant can be a spur to action. For more on the Legal Assistance Path, please look here.
The Foundation has also published a Model Remainder Deed and Trust Instrument which could help a collector remove his collection from his estate. To see this Model Deed, which is in the public domain, please look here.
The Escrow Path offers the services of the Foundation itself as a temporary interim recipient of the collection (or of its remainder). This can be helpful if the collector does not have the time, or the skills, to make a placement himself. It also offers heirs who have inherited a collection an easy, responsible, and tax-deductible way to dispose of it.
The Foundation will not keep an Escrow Path collection for itself, but will arrange for its placement and preservation in a permanent institution. The Foundation will give rather than sell the the collection (or the remainder) to the receiving institution. Incidental expenses will either be absorbed by the Foundation or recovered from the receiving institution. The Foundation will make no profit from an Escrow Path transaction. The Foundation may not transfer a collection or a remainder to a private individual, or to a for-profit institution.
Because the Foundation is a tax-exempt non-profit institution, donating the collection or its remainder to the Foundation through its Escrow Path could result in a tax benefit to the collector or his estate. For more on the Escrow Path, please look here. Note that the Escrow Path does not actually create a legal escrow.