Experts advise on protecting valuable china, antique jewelry, prized books, and more.
porcelain dish and jewelry
Credit: Stephen Johnson

While all of our personal belongings are valuable to us in some way or another, family heirlooms often have financial value, too. "Whether it's jewelry, family heirlooms, art pieces, or stamps, it's important to keep track of the value of your possessions," says Mike Gulla, Director of Underwriting at Hippo Insurance. "Personal and family treasures can either be worth a lot of money or not much more than their sentimental value, but having your heirlooms insured maintains the value of all of your collectibles if damage or loss occurs."

How does one go about getting their family heirlooms insured? "Typical property insurance policies—homeowners, renters, or condo—provide coverage for items in your home, called personal property, but they have a dollar limit for certain types of valuables like jewelry," explains Patrick Causgrove, VP of homeowners insurance at Allstate. "So, if you have an expensive heirloom, you'd likely want to have what is called 'scheduled personal property' coverage or SPP. This comes in handy as an optional add-on to your property insurance policy that provides coverage for specific, high-value items."

Looking for more tips about how to insure your beloved family heirlooms? We asked insurance experts for advice and here's what they had to share.

Take stock of your valuables.

The first step to take to insure your family heirlooms is to make a list of what items are actually important to you. "Make an inventory of the various family heirlooms and valuable items that you own," says Amy Harris of State Farm. "Understanding what items you consider valuable enough that you wouldn't want to replace yourself, if something were to happen to them, will help establish what items should be covered by insurance."

Get a proper appraisal.

As soon as you've determined which items you want to be insured, Gulla says you'll need to have them appraised by a professional to determine their monetary value. "The key to finding an appraiser you can trust is ensuring that individual does not have an interest in purchasing your valuables," he says. "From an ethical standpoint, it's inappropriate for an appraiser to make an offer to purchase an object they have appraised, so you should avoid selling your items to an appraiser. This could present a conflict of interest and you could end up with a low valuation."

Call your insurance agent.

Once your appraisal is complete, Causgrove suggests contacting your insurance company to inform them that you have obtained an appraisal for proof of value for your family heirlooms and want to discuss policy options to ensure the best coverage for your precious items. "While the standard property policy will cover certain items, the limits within the policy are generally lower than covering a precious heirloom with a scheduled personal property policy," he says. "Insuring a family heirloom with an SPP policy ensures that the item is covered to its full value and will generally protect these special items in more diverse scenarios like losing an item while traveling."

Insure each heirloom individually.

According to Harris, most heirlooms and other valuable items should be insured individually to ensure that the appropriate amount of insurance coverage is applied and paid out in the event of a loss. "However, certain items may be part of a collection, or set, and may be better insured grouped together," she says. "This means a single coverage amount is applied to the entire collection or set."

Get a new appraisal every three years.

According to Harris, one of the most important steps someone can take once they have insurance coverage on their heirlooms or other valuables is to have them appraised periodically. "The recommendation would be to have an updated appraisal completed for your items every three years," she says. "This way you can confirm the current condition and quality of the heirloom while also ensuring you have the right amount of coverage."


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