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Estate plan options for handling personal collections

When you think of collectors the first thing that might come to mind is art. Stamps or coins might surface next, along with comic books, cars and baseball cards. But anything can be the object of personal passion. What qualifies can seem odd to others, but to the one doing the collecting, the process is one that feeds his or her joy.

Regardless of the reason for collecting, the reality is that the pieces accrued can be part of a personal legacy. They certainly have emotional value to the collector. If they happen to also have monetary value, they may prove to be a significant part of a personal estate; something worth bequeathing. This is one more argument for proper estate planning and the inclusion of provisions for handling collections.

Common handling options

Those experienced in this area of law know how to employ the right legal instrument to achieve the objectives you have for your collection. Motives for taking action might include the desire to ensure the collection remains intact after your death or managing its disposition to deliver the greatest possible value to your heirs. In either of these cases, the process requires some careful planning.

Step one in that process should be to obtain a reliable assessment of the collection's value. Here's why. You might wish to donate your prized possessions to some charity or museum and expect them to be a welcome gift. However, lacking details, including valuation, ahead of time, there's no way to be sure the collection will be accepted or used as you wish. There may be tax implications as well.

Directing your executor to sell the collection is possible. You should be sure the executor you choose appreciates the value of the collection and is prepared to give the time and energy necessary to get the best price. It could take some time to find a buyer.

The third common option is to bequeath the collection to an heir. The risk here is that there often isn't anyone interested in taking on and maintaining the collection. If the collection requires special handling and care, the cost could prove prohibitive. Depending on its value, the collection could also become the focus of dispute among heirs.

What becomes clear is that planning early is essential to ensure that your desires are understood.

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