If your favorite uncle is an avid collector, be prepared for a challenge says Forbes in the recent article, “Astute Estate Planning For Art, Antiques And Valuable Collectibles.” Unless the owner of the collection has done their homework, someone in your family—maybe you—may be spending long nights gathering information, organizing and documenting that collection. If it’s your collection, here’s a list of what you should be doing to protect your collection’s worth and make it easier for your heirs.
Tracking. Personal property items are easily “lost” or misplaced. Use inventory software or keep copious records. You should also retain receipts, appraisals and other imprimaturs and bona fides of provenance.
Assignment and Transfer. Since personal property can “walk off,” it’s smart to make certain that all applicable parties, such as heirs, are informed of inventory lists or other tracking methods, with clear instructions on who gets what. You can even add in your will or trust an addendum “Exhibits A-Z,” to make sure that nothing gets lost. Photographs, serial numbers, and other identifying data can be added for more fungible items, like firearms.
Security and Insurance. Use precautions like safes, safety deposit boxes and alarm systems because transportable valuables present greater risks of theft and of fire/disaster. There can be different insurance rules based on the item. You may need separate deductibles, endorsements, riders and proofs of location and ownership to have proper insurance coverage.
Documentation. Particularly for art and important antiques, it is vital to have documentation that supports authenticity and records provenance. This can include certificates of authenticity, bills of sale, condition reports, artists’ notes and photographs, along with appraisals and insurance reports. A gap in documentation can result in challenges in establishing provenance and authenticity.
Valuation. Most personal property is in a very illiquid market, and the price is very much whatever the market will bear. Specialized knowledge may be needed to arrive at a fair price.
Estate Tax Issues. Retain accurate inventories to make certain that all value is properly accounted for, if an estate tax return is due. It’s not uncommon for these items to be “forgotten” at tax time since, unlike securities, bank accounts and real estate, the IRS can’t easily track estate ownership of the assets, whether or not they’re taken by members of the family.
Be aware that selling a collection is not always an easy task. Values of certain collectibles change from year to year. An artist that was once prized and whose work sells in the thousands, may fall out of favor and the value of their work could shrink considerably. Coins that were promoted as investment grade may turn out to be worth face or melt value only. The items that you have gathered may hold more sentimental value for you, than they monetary value to your heirs. By doing all of the tasks listed above and learning what the market value of your collection is from the get-go, you and your heirs will be far better positioned as to what to do with the collection: sell, save or share.
Reference: Forbes (April 8, 2019) “Astute Estate Planning For Art, Antiques And Valuable Collectibles”