Whether you collect first-edition books or sports memorabilia, you’ve likely put significant time, effort, and money into the items you’ve accumulated over time. Regardless of what they’re worth, it’s not unusual for you to want the items go to someone who will appreciate them either while you’re living or after your death. But you don’t want the types of surprises that happen on television. Instead, clear communication and a game plan can help you avoid conflict and misunderstandings about your collection when it comes to division of assets.
In a previous blog, we wrote about the importance of family involvement with your collection. To ensure an orderly transition and minimize family conflict, it is imperative to prepare detailed written instructions on how your collection should be divided among your heirs. Your overall financial picture is important to consider, particularly if your collection has substantial value and could have tax or estate planning considerations.
Even if the collection is relatively small, detailed instructions will ensure that your family is clear about your wishes. The sentimental value of your collection could be huge, even if the collection is just a fraction of your actual estate value. And when it comes to how you divide your collection for transfer, you have several options.
Equally Divide the Collection Among Your Heirs
At first, dividing up your collection and giving each family member an equal share might seem like the most logical and straightforward option. Unfortunately, it can also be the most burdensome as it will require that you regularly assess and designate exactly which pieces go to each heir. If you do not do so, fluctuations in each items’ value may result in those “equal shares” having great differences in worth.
This might be important to you if your goal is to equally distribute the collection by value (i.e., an equitable distribution). It might not be as important if you are interested in dividing the collection by sentiment or other factors (i.e., a strategic distribution). In a strategic distribution, you may divide the collection based on how family members feel about the collection or their ability to maintain it. For example, one family member may have great attachment to a particular piece of the collection, regardless of its value. Such sentiment may play into your decision. In other cases, a family member may have a challenging financial situation and be tempted to sell the property. In such cases, you may choose to structure your estate to protect the items from such disposition.
Leaving the Collection to One Heir
Choosing one heir to receive the collection is often the simplest solution. However, it might only be appropriate if that heir wants to continue the collection. If you choose this option and there are multiple family members, it’s usually a good idea to help them understand why you made the decision to leave it to one person to avoid hard feelings. If equitable division of the overall estate is important to you, you can have the collection appraised and make appropriate adjustments to your estate plan so other relatives receive greater proportions of other assets to make up the difference.
Dispose of the Collection
Depending on your situation, the best option for you and your family may be to sell the entire collection so that your heirs inherit the monetary proceeds. However, this option also brings up many additional questions. For example, should you sell all or most of the collection now, or direct your collection to be sold as part of your estate plan? Are you interested in donating any of your pieces? Make those arrangements with the recipient as part of your estate plan, as well.
There may be important tax, estate, and family dynamic implications to these decisions, which are unique to every collector. Discussing your collection with your RegentAtlantic Wealth Advisor and other trusted professionals can help you evaluate the best decisions for you.
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