urn for ashes

“Urns were so last season. We dig deep on how to pass on lasting, personal, and intergenerational gifts in style.”

Team Vippi

New age heirlooms are not the most thought of topics in midlife. You probably are focused on transferring assets and wealth. Either way, congratulations – you’ve built up a robust enough portfolio of possessions to pass on to the next generation.

But when you’ve passed, and your children have sold your family home and split the money, what’s going to help them remember you in all your glory? What can you give them that triggers vivid recollections of your time together?

People often see heirlooms as a transfer of mementos or assets. And sure, we want to pass on some of the wealth and value we accrued over the years – ultimately, we can’t take any of it with us into The Great Beyond. Of course, we want to provide a sturdy foundation for the next generation.

But we can also pass on more than just our family home or ancestral possessions. There’s never been a better time to transform how you think about heirlooms as a whole. We’re united in reality, so why not think about being united in memory? It’s time to think about new age heirlooms.

What if you could trigger the creation of a platform that represents all family members past and present – a FamilyBook, if you will? The living members of your family would have an interactive tool to engage with and appreciate their family tree. The deceased family members would live on in a dynamic way.

There are few notions more beautiful than combining the past, present, and future.

Technology and social media platforms allow more than ever for you to create “living” heirlooms – ever-evolving testaments that will enable your family to add memories as they go. A property will always be a property, but a digital heirloom upgrades over time, becoming richer and more storied with every passing generation.

Many services enable the passing of ideas, memories, love, and stories from one generation to another. Team Vippi wants to help you do this in a way that allows your heirlooms to stay in the family for good.

thinking od new age heirlooms

Why not just pass on property or money?

It’s an age-old question that’s never been more relevant. While physical heirlooms still hold some weight, and we can still pass on property, money, and all that good stuff, planning heirlooms gives us a golden opportunity to immortalize our story.

And we can also nip conflict in the bud before it even starts. Sure, you can hand down your bridal outfit. But you have two daughters – then what? Does one get the dress and the other get the garter? That’s hardly going to be seen as a fair split.

The same goes for your property. Is your family estate really an heirloom if it just ends up being sold off? A “keepsake” without the “keep” part is just a gift for the “sake” of it. Sure, it’s okay – but is that a way of making sure your spirit stays in the family for generations?

Your personality, achievements, and values are as important for future generations as anything else. After all, was it your favorite watch that made you a good parent? Was it your property that made you human? Heck no. It was who you are that made your children who they are

As a midlifer, your passing is several decades off, fingers crossed. But the next generation’s heirlooms are worth thinking about now. Considering your future legacy can shape your actions in the world right now.

10 New Age heirloom ideas

creativity for new age heirlooms

Ditch the fancy watches and add a personal touch to your generational gifts.

1. Turn your ashes from dust to diamonds or tattoos.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, sure. But what if it’s ashes to diamonds? Or tattoos?

If you’re taking the cremation route, an urn was so last century. If you have your ashes divided into tiny vials and distributed to different parts of the family, they can scatter your ashes somewhere significant or keep them forever. Each recipient gets a part of you in death as they did during your life, and they can memorialize you in a way that’s special to them. 

But let’s say your family leaves your ashes strewn atop the first mountain you climbed or floating in your favorite nearby river – the physical part of you disappears with that act. However, what about the options that allow for a new embodiment of you? One that takes on a new beauty and significance?

Who says you just have to fill a pretty vase and be done with it?

However, something even more personal is being able to turn your ashes into actual diamonds through services like Lonite. They can then be set into jewelry. You can also have ashes worked into rings for the less flashy jewelry folks. Your family could take your spirit around with them every day, or on special occasions they wish you’d been there for.

But one can still lose jewelry. 

To guarantee that your family will always take you with them, they can literally have you tattooed on their body. A service like Engrave Ink can turn your ashes into ink, and your family members can take this to a tattoo parlor.

Ashes can be turned to tattoo ink.

You become the heirloom, and the heirloom becomes you. Of course, this isn’t for everyone – more for couples or close family. But it’s a borderline surreal gesture that essentially allows your loved one to carry your soul around as part of them. If they’re comfortable with the idea of tattoos, this is a heartfelt way to stay in their life forever.

2. Research and perfect your family tree on Ancestry.com.

A family tree going back generations can provide infinite fascination – a member of Team Vippi found out they’re a direct descendant of a Saul Wahl, a King of Poland. 

Ancestry.com can help you build a family tree going back hundreds of years using their tools and libraries. You can send this to your children and their children, so they know exactly where they’re from. That’s such a gift. 

AncestryDNA can also give you a digital DNA profile of exactly where your descendants originated if you’re into the more scientific angle on your heritage. 

(For non-white and immigrant families, the results aren’t so accurate – but they are getting better. Not all cultures document history in written form or have access to report lineages. Especially for those whose family records remain overseas, it’s not so easy for Ancestry.com to gather that information. In such cases, this service might not be the one for you right now.)

3. Write or commission an autobiography for your family to read and enjoy.

No, you don’t have to drop the latest NYT bestseller – but all you need is a dictaphone, your memories and messages, and a good freelance writer (from somewhere like Freelancer.com), and you’re rolling.

Talk about your life and values, and think about how you’d break down your life into chapters. It also provides an ideal opportunity to reflect on your story to date.

You can have both hardback books printed and ebooks produced to make sure that your story lives on, and the next generation has something to learn from. Besides, who doesn’t want to read a book in which they feature heavily? Your children will love it. You can have a certain number of books published and even distribute them upon reading of your will. A very touching, final gesture.

4. Create a compendium or album.

Services like Forever.com can help you digitize old photos of yourself. You can store limitless amounts of memories, print them off in artisan scrapbooks or photo albums, and pass them down forever.

Even if the books get lost, you’ve got a permanent repository of family history at your fingertips.

Plus, you’ll want the security of knowing that your data isn’t used to sell stuff to you – it’s not like Facebook. Even monthly payment plans give you complete ownership of your archive within the year, so it’s not your average subscription service where it could all be taken away from you. It’s genuinely a digital gift box that will last for decades.

Cloud storage means that any family member can access these photos at any time.

If you’re known for your *chef’s kiss* moments at large family meals, you can also have their favorite recipes turned into a family recipe book. Services like Bagsoflove.com allow you to make beautiful recipe books that you can pass on.

Making nana’s apple turnover 50 years on keeps her alive in your hearts and taste buds. Ensure the next generation has a way to do that.

5. Record personalized messages and have them imprinted onto vinyl or CD.

“No heirloom of humankind captures the past as do art and language.” (Theodore Bikel).

We all have things we want to say to people and music that connects us to that person. So why not combine the two?

  1. A decent podcast mic is relatively cheap nowadays, and if you’re not releasing the music for commercial use, you can have any emotionally relevant backdrop you like. Heartfelt sentiments to your wife over music from your first dance? Awesome. 
  2. If you own the music, fantastic. If not, who cares? It’s not for commercial use. You can rip the music from YouTube using a site like vid2mp3.com
  3. Then, you can layer one over the other in a simple program like Audacity. Have the song on one layer and your message on another – you can record your message directly into Audacity.
  4. Once you’ve finished your recording, export your file from the File menu. You can then send this to a service like Vinylify to have your words turned into a permanent heirloom. It’s even an option to send them a photo of you and your loved one to complete the vinyl packaging – a true sonic gift.
  5. Then, set up a SoundCloud account – this is kind of like YouTube but for music. Create a private playlist of all your recordings and messages, and send it out to your whole family. It’s a compendium you can all share and experience together.

6. Book a family trip en masse to your favorite place (if you’re still okay to travel) and book a videographer.

Aah, the family video. Is there anything more wholesome? One member of Team Vippi fondly remembers their father following the whole family around with a rocket-launcher-sized Panasonic camcorder when they first came out.

Well, we’ve all got video cameras on our phones in 2021. What’s so special about having a videographer document special days out? Any of your children could whip out their iPhone, but a videographer could help you put together a cinema-grade memento of your time together. So book one and have them turn up to a family get-together to document the day.

(They can be a little pricey, but heirlooms are worth it. If you look on Freelancer.com, you’ll find talented, eager freelancers who can give you a quote.)

Here’s where it gets New Age – you can bounce their glossy, edited video onto DVD and upload it onto a family YouTube channel. Once the professional video is uploaded, give the password to the next generation and have them archive their reality. This can transform into a great, sprawling library of family content.

Let’s say you’ve passed (you haven’t yet, you’re reading this). Your children or grandchildren may need a pick-me-up while they’re on a train or in a coffee shop. Voila! They can pull up a beautiful video of a particular moment you all shared on YouTube. It’s a fantastic way to keep your video heirloom accessible at any time.

7. Start buying vintage comic books and magazines.

Even the 20th most expensive comic book of all time fetched $179,250 (it was The Flash, in case you’re interested). At number one sits the first-ever Superman comic, valued at $3.2 million. You can do worse than stocking up on vintage comics both as an entertaining hand-me-down and a sometimes priceless collectible.

They’ve got kitsch value for the adults and can provide genuine fascination for younger children (and childish adults – there’s at least one in every family). 

For the classier family members who simply won’t be seen with a Batman annual (a Batmannual?), super rare magazines can also fetch a cent or two.

A mint-condition original Playboy with Marilyn Monroe goes for upwards of $635,000 (if you can find one without the pages stuck together). Even at the lower end of the scale, an issue of Popular Science from 1931 sells for $750. 

So pass down some vintage magazines that give a good sense of who you are. It’s the perfect midpoint between property and personality. (Maybe avoid giving your child a Playboy, though – that’s just an awkward conversation no one is ready for.)

8. Write a sincere and heartfelt letter to everyone, not to be opened until your death.

This is kind of anti-New-Age but can be equally powerful as a result. In the age of WhatsApp, a letter is a powerful and permanent display of emotion.

Buy a beautiful fountain pen, some high-quality paper, and even, if you’re feeling fancy, a wax seal (there are sets available online). Then, handwrite heartfelt sentiments for everyone and hand them over to your lawyer (or have your partner or best friend keep them safe for you).

In the event of your passing, these letters go out to your intended recipients. The formal presentation can work wonders for making simple words go the extra mile.

Another option would involve doing exactly the same thing, but with recorded video messages. Leave them with your lawyer and have them send the video to the intended recipient when you pass.

Modern generations are blessed with the ability to film themselves at all times. A video message talking to the people you’ve left behind from beyond the grave could be extremely moving and valuable.

9. Maintain a family website.

The days of the email newsletter are a little past us now – instead, why not set up a website? Have separate headings like Celebrations, Travel, News, and Photos.

You can build a great-looking site on Wix.com or Squarespace.com cheaply. If you’re not all that web-savvy, work with a more tech-attuned family member on making it – a fantastic, collaborative way to create your memories. 

Then, give every family member the login details. That way, anyone can access the site and add updates, news, events, and photos. 

Might this get a little overwhelming? Quite possibly. But isn’t that part of the joy and chaos of being in a family?

10. Memorialize your social media page.

You can elect someone to take over your Facebook account when you pass. This means they can run memorials and have people post their recollections of your life. Your selected “legacy contact” can also choose who gets to post memorials so that they can filter out any timewasters.

Yes, we live in a world where your Facebook account can outlive you. However, as long as you select a trustworthy legacy contact, your Facebook profile can be a lasting public testament to who you were.

The roundup

At some point, our stories have to end. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t encourage others to tell it! New age heirlooms are a great gift to the next generation – and we can pass them on in a way that speaks to that generation’s language.

Personal, unique, and inspiring; we should hand over something that our children want to keep in the family forever.

As each generation passes, we should try to create a platform that houses the whole family’s stories. A family that lives together as a unit can also be remembered as a unit if you make the most of a shared platform.

Article resources

Your old magazine could be worth $50,000 – or more. Here’s how to sell it. (n.d.). https://flipsy.com/article/951/old-magazine-worth-50000-heres-sell 

Mcintyre, M. (n.d.). The 20 most expensive comic books in the world. https://wealthygorilla.com/most-expensive-comic-books/ 

Weise, E. (n.d.). Looking for your roots? For Asians, blacks and Latinos, DNA tests don’t tell whole story. https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/12/02/asians-blacks-latinos-genealogical-tests-dont-tell-full-story/2132681002/