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Personal Items, Artwork and Collections are Central to Family Fights

Communication between family members before their parent’s pass can sometimes prevent family feuds over possessions, whether they are million-dollar Picassos or a celebrity’s dog dish.

Christie’s auction house in New York was the setting for an auction of hundreds of personal items belonging to the late entertainer Joan River’s, just a few years after her death in 2015.

As The Financial Times reported in “Why an art collector’s estate needs tight planning,” a silver Tiffany bowl, engraved with her dog’s name, Spike, made headlines when it sold for thirty times its estimated price.

This shows how an auction house can generate a buzz around the estate of a late collector, creating demand for items that, had they been sold separately, might have failed to attract as much attention.

A problem for some art and collectible owners is that their heirs may feel much less passionately about the works, than the person who collected them.

A collector can either gift, donate or sell in their lifetime. He or she can also wait until they pass away and then gift, donate, or sell posthumously.

The way a collector can make certain his or her wishes are carried out or eliminate family conflicts after their death, is to take the decision out of the hands of the family, by placing an art collection in trust.

The trust will have the collector’s wishes added into the agreement, and the trustees are appointed from the family and from independent advisers with no interest in a transaction taking place.

Many collectors like to seal their legacy by making a permanent loan or gift of art works to a museum. However, their children can renege on these agreements, if they’re not adequately protected by trusts or other legal safeguards after a collector’s death.

The best way to prevent a family fight over a legacy is to have ongoing discussions about estate planning, long before the reading of the will takes place. Making sure that siblings understand what is being given to who, and why and work out any discord in advance of the inheritance. That, combined with trusts or whatever legal method are used to preserve a legacy, can also preserve a family.

Reference: Financial Times (June 20, 2019) “Why an art collector’s estate needs tight planning”

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