Art collections need careful estate planning

More so than perhaps any other kind of collection, an art collection is a reflection of its curator. His or her tastes, quirks, and, perhaps above all else, level of wealth are on display with the collected items themselves. Georgia is home to some impressive hoards of artistic gold—sometimes literally—but collectors here may make the same mistake as others: failing to do proper estate planning for the disposition of their art assets after death.

Unfortunately, when it comes to estate planning, estate tax, probate, and other issues such as wills and trusts, art collectors often procrastinate in specifying what goes to whom, and how. This may expose their heirs to costly and unpleasant legal battles that could have been avoided entirely through proper financial planning.

In this important criterion, art collections—although sentimentally valuable in a way unique from other assets—are no different from other wealth when it comes to estate administration. It is true that art, whether paintings, sculpture or any other medium, may fluctuate in value according to the whims of the marketplace, this is no different from holdings in precious metals like gold or silver or other commodities.

A wealthy person might never dream of not specifying the disposition of precious metals but remain indecisive about which beneficiaries might "most appreciate" a collection of art until it is too late and the matter must be decided in court, wasting much of the monetary value contained in the artwork.

Taking the time and energy to work with an attorney experienced in estate planning might be the best way to avoid saddling heirs with such contentious and wealth-draining processes. Such a lawyer may enable art collectors to further enjoy their collections with the knowledge that the curated reflection of their tastes, personalities, and wealth will go to exactly the right people.

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