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What To Do with an Inherited Collection

Ms. Smith's inheritance is unique in the value of the works she didn't know about in her mother's attic. But her initial feeling of being overwhelmed and uncertain about what to do with a family member's collection, whether valuable or sentimental, is not.

Inheriting cash is pretty straightforward. But collectibles? What do you do with them?

In a recent article titled "The Weighty Responsibility of Inheriting a Collection," The New York Timestells the story of Jaye Smith who inherited her mother's photograph collection. This was not an ordinary collection of family photographs. Ms. Smith's mother had been an editor of a photography magazine.

Several of the photographs were the original work of famous photographers. Ms. Smith initially had no idea the photos were valuable. It was only after a friend asked for one that she discovered the value of the collection.

This is a problem for a lot of heirs when they receive any type of collection. The heirs are not always sure what they have and what to do with the collection.

The original article suggests three steps. First, the collection needs to be organized and catalogued. It is important to know what the actual contents of the collection are. Next, the pieces in the collection need to be properly archived for preservation, which may require hiring an expert. Finally, another expert needs to be found if the collection is to be sold. This expert needs to know what the items are worth and where to sell them.

If you have a collection you want to leave to your heirs, you could help them out tremendously by organizing and archiving your collection for them. You could include details about your collection as part of your estate plan. Doing so would also help your estate planning attorney advise you regarding possible estate tax issues the collection could cause.

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