Estate Planning and Your Collection
It’s a subject most people don’t like to think about, but the fact is that we will all die someday and we can’t take our beloved treasures with us. The investment of time and money we have made in our collections, and the hobby as a whole, warrants special consideration for what happens to it when we are gone. So regardless of the substance of one’s collection, big or small, Gem Mint or Very Good, here are some basic things to consider when determining what will happen to your collection when you pass.
Does It Matter?
The first thing to consider is, how much your collection really matters to you. Some collectors simply don’t care. It’s just a hobby to occupy time and when that time is up, where or with whom the collection ends up is trivial. It's certainly an understandable prerogative.
However, if you view your collection as a tangible asset of either monetary or sentimental value, it is important to leave specific instructions about how the collection will be gifted, donated, divided, etc. The last thing you want is for your beloved hobby and collection to be a source of contention for surviving family matters.
In most cases, our hobby is an individual pursuit. Perhaps, however, it has been shared with a young son or daughter or maybe an older parent. In those cases, discussion about what should be done with the collection needs to take place while both people are alive. When an agreement is reached, it should be put in writing, signed and witnessed. If the decision is solely up to you, it is still important you know what you want to have happen to your collection and document those wishes accordingly.
Making It Easy for Those You Love
If leaving money to your heirs is the motivating reason for putting your hobby affairs in order, there isn’t a cookie-cutter solution. Collectors need to evaluate for themselves the best means of maximizing the dollars yielded from the collection, while at the same time making it as easy as possible on surviving family members.
High-end vintage collectors may want to think about contacting one of the industry’s numerous auction houses and asking them if they would help a surviving spouse liquidate the collection. Documenting those specifics in a will helps the beneficiary by providing clear instructions and contact information of the contracted auction house.
Modern collectors with a mix of items from autographed and game-used cards, sets and figures may want to contact their local card shop, depending on the relationship they have with the owner. It would be important to decide if they would be willing to take the entire collection, without cherry-picking it, for a lump-sum payment.
If you have close hobby friends, you may want to ask them if they would be willing to help liquidate your collection piece meal to maximize the return on your investment. This alleviates the burden put on grieving family members who may or may not have shared your appreciation for the hobby, while leaving them the most amount of money possible.
Keeping It in the Family
Many collectors plan to pass their treasures on to a loved one as an heirloom. Do their children have a favorite piece? Are they going to appreciate the gift from a sentimental perspective? How should the collection be divided between multiple siblings? These are all things one should consider when leaving one’s collection to family members without pre-planning how it will be liquidated.
If you plan on donating your collection to a federally exempt, non-profit, or other charitable organization, be sure to ask about the policies and procedures regarding such gifting. Additionally it would be prudent to consult an accounting professional to find out what tax liabilities or benefits may result with such a gesture.
Making It Official
If you already have a legal Will and Testament, you may consider revising it to specifically include the particulars of what you want to happen to your collection. If you don’t have a will, it is not a complicated process and the hiring of a lawyer isn’t necessary. There are many books, computer programs and online resources to choose from that offer self-guided and turn-key solutions that are very cost-effective.
Failure to properly plan for the inevitable leaves an unnecessary burden on your surviving loved ones. With a little forethought, it is possible that you will be able to use your collection to give a small smile or comfort to them, just as collecting has likely done for you.
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