At Death, Cash is Still King

04/08/2013

Liquid-asset-1"While my father had considerable assets, they are illiquid, and the family needs immediate financial assistance for a proper funeral," … "He deserves no less."

When you breathe your last breath, which would your heirs (likely) need – a million dollars in cash or a million dollars in illiquid art? The family of Merton D. Simpson can clarify any uncertainty you may have, especially when it comes to having enough cash to bury you.

In short, "illiquid assets" can present a great challenge to proper planning for you, your family, and your estate.

While there are countless examples, a very recent and public one is the case of the aforementioned Merton D. Simpson. As reported by The New York Times in an article titled "Art Worth Millions, Yet No Cash for Burial," careful planning is required to meet "liquid" cash needs virtually every estate encounters. Whether paying last health care expenses or other debts, you at least want to have enough cash for your funeral.

Mr. Simpson’s entire estate was worth millions in a vast collection of African and modern art, not to mention art in his own name as an artist of no little esteem. Tragically, in the end there was no money for the funeral. In addition, what happens if and when the taxes come due? That’s when expensive collections of illiquid assets are sold at auction, oftentimes for pennies on the dollar.

Now there’s more to the story of Mr. Simpson and many more lessons to be gleaned regarding proper financial and estate planning, as well as a bit of family intrigue. The takeaway: if one dies with an estate of priceless, illiquid assets – then one’s estate may find itself deep in the desert with a purse full of gold, but not a drop of cool water to drink.

For more information, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: The New York Times (March 26, 2013) "Art Worth Millions, Yet No Cash for Burial"