Someone sent us an artifact (unsolicited), accompanied by a signed and dated note stating “I am sending you the enclosed flag for your use or disposal as you see fit.” I already know that we won’t be keeping the flag in our collection. Do I need to get a Deed of Gift from the donor before I discard the flag, or can I just discard it without the paperwork, since the sender specifically said we could dispose of it?
A deed of gift will establish your institution’s ownership of the item outright. The language implies ownership but is not specific per the law. Heirs of the owner may not agree with the owner’s wishes and seek to have the item returned. In that case, selling or disposing of the flag would complicate things.
Thank you, Patricia. That’s what I thought we should do. So now another question: once we received the signed deed of gift, do you know whether we have to keep the flag for a specified period of time before we can discard it?
Once you have the deed of gift signed,the item can be sold or discarded. Some archives will often keep things they want to throw away out of respect until the owner dies. In a small town, this may be especially important because loose talk can hurt an institution’s reputation. Sometimes there are space considerations that make it impossible to store things but it is something to consider.
I was wondering if there was some legal requirement to keep the item for a certain period of time. I don’t want to process things like this if I have to store them for 3 years, for example, before I can discard them. If I can dump the thing as soon as I have a signed deed of gift, I’m good.
I don’t think you have to keep them for a specified length of time. Once the gift agreement is signed, you legally own it.
Maybe someone can shed some light on the length of time. I recall reading somewhere the IRS requires a donated item be kept for a period of time (3 years I think). This is because the donor may have taken a tax deduction. I’m not sure if this means the organization can not dispose (trash) the item within that time frame or if it means the item can not be sold or returned to the donor until that time is up.
The question you raise is related to IRS form 8282 which you can find here: https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/form-8282-donee-information-return
If you look at the form itself, the instructions for filing do include some information about what may need to be filed if a donated object is discarded. I would suggest following up with the IRS to clarify any of the information here.
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