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Where Will My Treasures Go?

Author: Louise Paglen, Estate Planning Attorney, The McIntosh Law Firm, P.C.

Human beings have been collecting things since the dawn of civilization. We collect coins, stamps, artwork, comic books, dolls, firearms, figurines, baseball cards, memorabilia, china, automobiles, jewelry, wine, timepieces, antiques, and so on. Some people collect with the hope or expectation that their possessions will substantially appreciate over time. Others collect simply because it’s fun.

How do you make sure your valuable and treasured collectibles will not wind up in the attic, a landfill, or a shelf in a local thrift shop? Or worse yet, become the subject of family strife and rancor? You need a written and legally enforceable estate plan that begins with a complete and thorough discussion about your wishes and concerns regarding your property, the future, and all your treasures, especially your family.

Some considerations include:

Would it be best to transfer your collection during your lifetime or after death? Do you have firearms that need to be registered when transferred to new owners? What happens to your collection if you become incapacitated? Should you leave your collection to a charity or an individual? Do you want your collection sold and all the proceeds divided amongst your heirs? Are you concerned about protecting your family’s privacy; or are you comfortable with the details of your collection becoming a public record? Will a handwritten list referenced in your will be sufficient to transfer your treasures? Would it be best to transfer your collection to a Trust that plans for incapacity, protects privacy and assures that a qualified person distributes your property in accordance with your detailed instructions?

If you want your grandson to have your coin collection, or your niece to inherit your artwork, you need to make your wishes known in a properly drafted and executed Will or Trust Agreement. If you die without a Will, the Court will appoint someone to administer your estate after your death. Family disputes over personal property will typically be resolved by an order to sell your personal property, including your collections, at a public auction, so the net proceeds can be divided amongst your heirs.

To ensure that your treasured collectibles end up where you intend, reach out to an experienced estate planning attorney for help.