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Trusts & Estates

March 13, 2019

Bequests of Art

For many people, a meaningful part of their legacy is the art they’ve collected during their life. When considering what becomes of their collection after they’re gone, there is a natural desire to get it where it will be most appreciated, and often that means donating it to an institution such as an art museum. A charitable bequest of art written into one’s will or trust may provide a valuable tax deduction as well as allow future generations to enjoy the works. However, these purposes can be frustrated if this intention is not discussed in advance with the recipient organization.

All too often, the first notice an institution receives of an estate gift is a call from a benefactor’s family, attorney, or financial advisor with news that the deceased donor has provided for them in his/her will or trust with a bequest of all or a part of his/her collection. While very appreciative of the donor’s beneficence, the institution is unable to accept the gift. The works may be outside the institution’s mission or curatorial departments. Conversely, it could be too duplicative of objects they already have. Donations of large collections may simply involve a greater number of works than the institution can display or effectively store. When the designated recipient organization cannot accept such a gift, the natural consequences can include disappointment for the decedent’s family and heirs, regret for the institution, and complications in settling the estate.

To avoid these problems, a donor should let the organization know of the intention to include it in the estate plan. Any organization would be ready and willing to consult confidentially in advance on the proposed gift and assist with the arrangements and documents to best achieve the donor’s desires. If the art or collectibles are not a good fit with that particular organization, they can help guide the donor toward other solutions and possibly another better-suited recipient. As is true with so many endeavors, communication and collaboration yield the best results for all involved.

This article is intended to be an unconstrained review of matters of possible interest to Glenmede Trust Company clients and friends and is not intended as personalized investment advice. Advice is provided in light of a client’s applicable circumstances and may differ substantially from this presentation. Opinions or projections herein are based on information available at the time of publication and may change thereafter. Information gathered from other sources is assumed to be reliable, but accuracy is not guaranteed. Outcomes (including performance) may differ materially from expectations herein due to various risks and uncertainties. Any reference to risk management or risk control does not imply that risk can be eliminated. All investments have risk. Clients are encouraged to discuss the applicability of any matter discussed herein with their Glenmede representative.