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What to do about assets such as art and other heirlooms

New York residents who are creating an estate plan might find that while passing on certain assets, such as cash and stocks, is relatively straightforward, dealing with some other types can be far more complex. So-called "hard" or "illiquid" assets such as jewelry, art collections or property might present difficulties regarding value as well as who to leave them to and in what manner.

It is important to take into account that the value of an item may have changed over time, and a qualified appraiser should be chosen. There are bodies that accredit appraisers, such as the International Society of Appraisers and the Appraisers Association of America, and a professional should be chosen who is certified by one of them.

Some family members may be sentimentally attached to some of these assets. It may be necessary to figure out how to divide an asset between several family members or work out how to make the division of the rest of the assets equitable. It will also be necessary to make a decision about whether the asset will be passed on to an heir directly, using a trust or even by selling it and giving the cash to heirs. The latter might be the right choice if the heirs are uninterested in the asset and unlikely to know its value.

Talking to family members can help prepare them for what it is in the plan and might head off any conflicts. In the case of these types of assets, it may be particularly helpful in resolving most of the questions above about who should get the asset and how. However, it is important to review estate planning documents periodically, and in doing so, people should find out whether the asset's value or the heir's feelings about it have changed significantly.

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