What to do when someone dies and leaves military medals

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It is understandable that people want to pass down their heirlooms - such as military medals - to their family when they die.  Military medals symbolize a person’s sacrifices and service to their country, and are an important part of a family’s history. 

Occasionally wills have specific directions as who is to receive the medals.  In most cases, it is left to the executor of the will to decide how possessions, including the medals, are distributed to the beneficiaries.  This may be challenging for the executor. 

Keeping Military Medals Together Is Important

Each medal is like a chapter in a book.  Keeping a set together tells the full story of a person’s military service. 

Instead of splitting a set of military medals - giving one medal to each child in a family for example - consider giving the set to one child and having replicas made for the others.  Replicas or reproductions are inexpensive and can range in quality up to museum-grade quality.

Military Medals Belong in Families

Ideally, military medals should be kept in families as they are a very real connection to a serviceman or servicewoman.  An executor should talk openly with the beneficiaries and find out if anyone in the extended family is interested in preserving this family history. 

You Have Other Options

Sell the Medals.  Understanding the fair market value of the medals will help you choose the best way to sell them.  Arrange for an appraisal.  You could sell the medals to a dealer or an auction house but remember that they charge commissions or fees.  Alternatively, you could try to sell the medals on eBay or a similar site.  If you have never used these sites, you might find it useful to sell something else first to avoid mistakes when you do go to sell the medals.  Keep in mind that if the medals are rare and expensive, a buyer will almost certainly want to inspect them prior to purchase, and that this is quite reasonable.  Also, be aware that the Department of Canadian Heritage can deny the sale of a military medal to a foreign buyer under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act if it determines that the medal is cultural property of outstanding significance and national importance.

Donate the Medals to a Museum.  A museum will give the medals a home where they will be appreciated.  The official museum for the military unit the person served in is a good choice as it specializes in preserving, protecting and displaying the history of the military unit and the stories of its soldiers.

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4 important facts about The Royal Winnipeg Rifles Museum

  1. It is the official museum of The Royal Winnipeg Rifles Regiment.

  2. We permanently display a wide selection of military medals in our collection.

  3. We welcome the donation of all medals of Royal Winnipeg Rifles soldiers.

  4. We can issue a tax receipt for the value of the donation.

If you are interested in donating military medals to The Royal Winnipeg Rifles Museum or have questions about the process, please let us know.  The Museum relies on the generosity of donors, such as you, to keep the Regiment’s history vibrant and tell the important stories of its soldiers.