Estate Planning—Antiques, Collectibles & GREED

Inheriting fine collectibles, antiques and art sometimes brings out unattractive qualities in people, one being greed. Let me assure you that despite what the Michael Douglas character proclaimed in “Wall Street,” greed is not good.

Take the case of one of my older friends who had a very valuable Winchester lever-action rifle collection. My friend died 10 years ago at the tender age of 90. He had been acquiring Winchesters since he was in his teens. His collection consisted of all calibers; he even had two “Henrys.”

My friend owned a thriving nursery that sold plants wholesale to the many garden outlets you see along the highway, as well as to box stores, such as Lowe’s and Wal-Mart. I visited him regularly to attend to the nursery’s tax-reporting requirements. Because of my interest in firearm antiques, we discussed his collection and mine very often. I told him his collection was so valuable that he should have it insured. But, he assured me the fireproof, concrete vault where he stored the rifles was sufficient. Then I suggested that he have the collection photographed and categorized by year manufactured, serial number and caliber. He did and gave me a copy.

My friend did not have children, and one of his several nephews was the executor of his estate. My responsibilities were written in my friend’s will and that was to assist the executor file the federal estate-tax return. The nephew pulled together the estate’s assets and had them appraised. He gave me the appraisals so I could file the return. While filling out the various forms, I noticed something was missing—the Winchester collection! I asked the nephew about it, and he told me, “Uncle sold that last year. It’s gone.” I said that was strange as his uncle had promised to offer the Henrys to me first. Looking anxious, the nephew dismissed me. Well, the legal system dismissed the nephew and appointed me executor. Upon prodding from uncles and 28 first cousins, the nephew came up with the Winchester collection minus the Henrys. The court considered the inventory of Winchesters critical.

The inventory of Winchesters is a lesson learned. I am recommending that all my clients who have antiques and collectibles contact WorthPoint to have their valuables identified, categorized and valued.

– Jim Sturgill is a director of WorthPoint and founding partner of Sturgill & Associates LLP, a DC and Baltimore area CPA firm.

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