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How to include an art collection in an estate plan

Many adults visit art museums around the world and appreciate the beauty that artists offer through their work. However, very few people see the real value art can provide to society - and possibly your bank account.

Art collectors often study and closely follow artists to determine which pieces to purchase and how their acquisitions will appreciate over time. But some collectors overlook these high-value investments when establishing an estate.

The right tools to protect a collection

It's not enough for collectors to say what happens to a valuable collection, such as fine art. Collectors have to use the right tools surrounding them to ensure their collections end up in the right hands.

The first tool to consider is proofs of authenticity. As most collectors know, an art piece is worth nothing without the proper documentation. You should gather all the documents, such as appraisals and bills of sales, and place them in a safe area for a relative or beneficiary to receive. If you are concerned, you could also catalog, photograph and insure your collection in your estate plan.

The second tool is a clearly-worded will. It sounds basic, but the most critical thing a collector can do is explicitly state what happens to their collection after they pass. You can sell your collection, leave the works to a specific heir or donate them to an institution. No matter what you choose, it needs to be clear, so no one fights for your collection in court.

The third tool to implement is your beneficiaries. Hopefully, your estate plan covers more than art pieces because it includes all your assets from vacation homes to cars. With a valuable collection in the mix, it's important to let your heirs know what to expect. If you have one heir in mind for your pieces, include it in your will and let them know beforehand. It helps everyone in the long term.

The fourth, and final, tool to consider using is an estate planning expert. You should consult with someone who understands the nature of planning an estate and what plans you are comfortable making right now.

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