Collections, Heirlooms and Your Heirs

Recently, across my computer screen came the Fall, 2016 issue of Heritage Magazine for the Intelligent Collector. (

In that issue is a very interesting article about what heirs may encounter when inheriting a loved-one’s unique collection, whether it is a valuable coin collection or a less than pristine collection of old stamps.

The hypothetical questions to be confronted – What do we do with great Aunt Matilda’s antique doll collection or Uncle Bart’s cherished assortment of old train timetables? Do they have intrinsic value? How do we know how the collection was acquired? Do we know how much was paid for the collection?

In the Heritage Magazine article titled: “Avoiding the Chaos” – “Whether you intend to collect to the very end or sell next month, it’s crucial to keep your heirs informed” – by James L. Halperin and Gregory J. Rohan with Mark Prendergst (Fall 2016, p.86) – we find instructive examples of how heirs can either overestimate (or grossly underestimate) the value of a loved one’s collection.

One caveat by the authors is that collectors might be advised to keep good documentation of their collections.

To give my own example, heirs might find documentation of a collection of sets of coins acquired at antique auctions of more interest that the collection of dubious silver candlesticks purchased at garage sales.

This is not to say that the candlesticks may not have a very real value (ala Antiques Roadshow), but the likelihood of the coin collection having a higher value is significantly better.

Even a simple card file system can go a long way to help heirs begin to uncover the true worth of a collection.

If you are a collector (of anything), the article is well worth your reading time.


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About Attorney Barbara Ann Dalvano

Attorney in Denver, Colorado with extensive practice experience in the areas of Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Business Succession Planning, Probate, Contract Law.

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