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Protection of an asset most valuable for a family

U.S. Coast Guard veteran Albert Frost died on his 100th birthday, leaving behind a variety of assets and possessions. One in particular not only had sentimental value to Frost’s beneficiaries, but could also attract a pretty penny for collectors of such memorabilia.

Frost was a 30-year veteran of the United States Coast Guard, starting his career in December of 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It would serve as the first of many career highlights.

In 1957, Frost marked another milestone by commanding the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Unimak as it traveled up the Potomac in a ceremonial voyage with a congressional delegation board.

After the successful trip, Frost was given the key to the city of Washington. It was made of brass and housed in a box marked, “Presented to Commander Albert Frost, USCGC Unimak, Washington, D.C. July 26, 1957.”

Following Frost’s death, his son, John, and daughter-in-law, Elena went through his possessions. They kept some, but donated others to charity. The ceremonial key and Coast Guard ribbons were in a suitcase also containing sheets and pillowcases. Both spouses planned to examine the contents, but assumed that the other had done it.

The suitcase and those contents, many that traveled the world with Albert, ended up in a local Goodwill.

Enter Gary Thomas, executive director of the Foundation for Coast Guard History, and Jonathan Kauza. The two were scanning ShopGoodwill.com when they came across the key and uniform ribbons.

In an office across from Kauza’s was Captain John Barresi. Assuming that the officer would be interested, he called him over to show off his potential acquisition.

Barresi saw the name on the key and it seemed familiar. He then realized that a few days earlier, an email was sent requesting volunteer pallbearers for Albert Frost’s funeral scheduled to take place in two days at Arlington National Cemetery.

Time was of the essence. Setting aside assumptions that the award was given away on purpose, they found a relieved Elena and told her of the key.

Baressi then called Goodwill to have the key taken down from the website. He and a colleague went to the charity’s warehouse to pick it up and provide Goodwill a $100 donation.

On the day of the funeral, 60 years after it was presented to Albert Frost, the key was presented to his son who is also a Coast Guard veteran of 24 years.

An important aspect of estate planning involves asset protection. It can come in many forms for items enjoying tangible and intangible value. For the Frost family, the symbol of their father’s legacy is their most prized possession.

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