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Including art collections in an estate plan

People in New York who are art collectors may want to include plans for their collection in their estate plan. Collectors may often procrastinate on dealing with art in their estate plan until it is too late. This could be because the collector is undecided as to who to give the collection to, but this can lead to estate tax for the family and conflict over what happens to the art.

A person has several choices. The art can be left to individuals or a charity, or it could be placed in a trust. A person could also arrange for the art to be owned by corporate entities in order to simplify the probate process.

Another consideration is record keeping. The older the piece of art and the more tenuous the connection between the collector and the artist, the more important it is that the provenance of the art is established. The types of records that should be kept include insurance records, bills of sale and certificates of authenticity.

A person who is undecided about what to do with artwork might want to talk to individual family members or have a family meeting. Talking with family members can help clarify a person's plans so that they are more clearly understood by the family. However, a person may anticipate conflict that cannot be resolved, and it is not necessary to tell family members about the plan or even leave the collection to family members. People may also want to revise other elements of the estate plan after adding the collection to it. For example, if one heir is getting a valuable art collection, the person may want to change that heir's share of the rest of the estate. An attorney may be able to help a person with a plan that will create minimal financial issues for heirs.

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