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Advice for Collectors: How to Prepare & What to Do with Your Collection When You Pass Away

Whether you collect Star Wars paraphernalia, Lalique figures, stamps, priceless art, Integrity Toys dolls or anything else, you probably have devoted a significant amount of time and money to your passion. However, have you thought about what will happen to your collection when you pass away?

We don’t like to think about things like incapacitations (whether from dementia, Alzheimer’s, a medical issue, accident or otherwise) or death. However, not doing some planning may leave your loved ones with a blank look on their face as they confront this strange world of valuable possessions. This means that they could donate them or sell them for pennies on the dollar, when they hold significant sentimental and/or monetary value.

As both a collector and the creator of the Future File® legacy planning system myself, I have a lot of experience in both collecting and planning. Here’s some of my best advice to create a plan for the legacy of your collectibles.

Be Specific on Your Wishes. What would you like to happen to the collectibles that you have accumulated? Do you want them to go to a museum for preservation? Do you want them shared among one or more fellow collectors who you know will value them? Do you want them sold and the proceeds distributed to certain people in your estate? You can choose one or more paths, but you should be clear in both your Will and in the instructions you leave behind for your loved ones so they know what to do, like in a legacy planning system such as Future File.

Think about both what happens if you pass and if you were to become incapacitated. The former is a bit more concrete, so it may be easier to imagine. But, what if you become mentally incapacitated and your family needs more money for care? Could they sell some of your possessions then, and if so, which ones? The more specific you are, the easier it is for your loved ones to carry out your wishes.

Have a Detailed Listing of Your Collection. Collections can be massive and if you are not familiar with such collections, as your loved ones may not be, trying to figure out exactly what you have can be daunting. I suggest keeping a spreadsheet that details a picture of the item, the name, the cost you paid (if you remember), current market value and any specific details about the item that a loved one might need to know (like it’s a one-of-a-kind, it’s a rare variation, etc.). This is helpful for you to know what you have and for them to be able to carry out your wishes.

Keep Current Market Values up to Date. As collectibles can appreciate, and also fall in and out of favor, you should once or twice a year update the market values on your spreadsheet so your loved ones can understand their worth.

Get Specialized Insurance. This tip is more for you now, but can also help if something happens to you, like an accident- get insurance! Collectibles are often more difficult to insure and require specialized insurance or a detailed extra rider, but if you have value in the collection, make sure that it is protected.

Talk to a Dealer, Auctioneer, etc. in Advance and Leave Contact Details. As your loved ones may not know who to contact if you are seeking to leave something behind, do the homework for them and leave details. If you are thinking you want to leave something to a museum, make sure that they will take it (some do not) and if so, leave a contact for your loved ones to follow-up with. If you are leaving something to a fellow collector, note their contact information in your wishes.

If you want them to sell some or all of the collection, talk to a dealer or auction house that may be able to facilitate that sale for your loved ones. There are many that specialize in doing this, but your family may not be able to find them—or find ones that will get a good price for your valued collection. Again, leave that information behind for them.

While it’s never fun to think about, some good organization and pre-planning can preserve the integrity of your collection for years to come. If you need further help or a place to organize this information, as well as a roadmap for other items from social media wishes to burial/cremation instructions and more, consider purchasing a Future File system to help your loved ones save grief, time and money if and when that unavoidable situation comes to light.