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How to work antiques and other valuable collectibles into your estate plan

Jul 10, 2023 | RBC Wealth Management


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Do you have antiques or collectibles in your home? Are they listed in your estate plan? Learn why anything you have of value (including artwork or historic memorabilia) should be included in your estate plan in the new issue of Investor’s Edge.

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One important aspect of estate planning often overlooked is collectible assets like artwork, antiques and even historical memorabilia. Awareness of these types of assets grew during the pandemic as people spent more time at home cleaning and organizing. For some, that led to the finding out that they have been sharing their homes with valuable collectibles, memorabilia and antiques. Due in part to these discoveries, a recent boom in buying and selling collectibles has led to a spike in prices. 

Sales of collectibles in the United States increased 142% in 2020, according to eBay, with non-U.S. sales surging 162%. Some spectacular sales captured media attention and sent more people searching for treasure in their storage bins. Not every collectible is going to fetch a huge return, but your piece of art, antique car or rare Pokémon card could still have plenty of value. And no matter what you might have in your possession, if it has value then you should consider incorporating it into your estate plan. 

Valuation for collectibles 

While some avid collectors track the value of their trading cards or rare books, many people lack information about the value of what they own or inherit and may not know where to start. 

If you find something you’re not sure about, especially if you don’t know if it’s worth $10 or $1 million, you need to find a valuation expert who handles that type of asset. Many collectibles, such as coins and trading cards, are valued based on their grade, so you can start by investigating grading services. 

If you have an old car, you could begin the valuation process by contacting an automobile club or a group with an interest in a particular brand of car. Similarly, an auction house is a good source for experts on art, antiques, silver, china and other collectibles. 

No matter what you own, at a minimum, go online and do some research before selling anything at a garage sale or giving it away. 

Protecting your collectibles 

Depending on the value and condition of an item or a collection, you may need to invest in special storage, such as a glass case, safe-deposit box or secure garage to maintain the item’s condition. This may also include extra insurance coverage for special items such as art and jewelry. 

If storage and insurance are significant expenses to protect the valuable item, you may want to plan for that in your estate to assist the next generation’s ability to defray those costs. For example, you could purchase a life insurance policy in an irrevocable trust to provide liquidity for your heirs to help them pay estate taxes and the cost of maintaining your collection. 

Distribution and estate planning 

It’s important to work with your financial advisor as you consider gifting, donating or selling your valued items as part of your estate planning process. Thorough planning can help effectively incorporate your collectibles into your estate, which means that your wishes for that treasured trading card or family heirloom can be followed in the future—even if you only just re-discovered it after many years.

Read additional articles in the Q3 issue of Investor's Edge.

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Wealth planning