In 1996, Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos passed away leaving billions in cash, property, and other assets to his oldest son. Among Niarchos’ personal assets was an art collection worth an estimated $250 million. The collection includes works by Monet, Picasso, and van Gogh, with new additions being acquired by Niarchos’ son Phillip. Though not every collector boasts such an extensive private collection, even one piece could be worth millions.  Any person who has collected art must remember to include that collection in his or her will to avoid complication or disputes in the future. These estate planning tips for art collectors help those who are leaving behind works of art properly plan for the future.

Include an Appraisal

Even though you love art and have shared your enthusiasm with your heirs, that does not mean that your beneficiaries will truly understand or appreciate the value of your collection. Beyond sentimental value, it is possible that your heirs will not know the true worth of your collection unless you tell them. When bequeathing an art collection, consider getting the entire collection appraised and include the appraisals with your estate planning documents. Otherwise, your heirs may seriously undervalue what you have left for them.

Create an LLC

Occasionally, leaving an entire collection to one person is not possible and splitting up a collection may not be appealing. One way to leave your entire collection to multiple people of your choice is to create an LLC and transfer your artwork to it so that the collection can be left to more than one person. This option does not force you to choose who gets what piece and allows your heirs to equally share the value of the artwork if any work is sold.


The decision to donate artwork is not unusual and is seen as a simple solution for those who want to enjoy their art during their lifetime while ensuring the collection is properly appreciated after they pass away. Bequeathing a collection to a favorite charity or museum is an easy way to make sure that your art will be appreciated and that your estate benefits from a tax deduction.  Specifying a charity or museum in your will ensures that your collection will be delivered to the organization of your choice.

Consider Selling

Getting your collection appraised may not guarantee that your heirs will truly appreciate your collection or resell the collection for what it is worth. If you do not believe that your beneficiaries will value or appreciate your art collection, consider selling the collection before you pass away. A well-known marble collector, Bert Cohen, decided to sell his multi-million dollar collection after realizing that his son would sell them eventually, anyway. Not every collector is comfortable selling his or her collection during his or her lifetime, but it is an option to consider, especially if your heirs are not planning to add to it.

Make Plans

No matter what you ultimately decide to do, it is vital that you discuss your plans with a qualified estate and trust attorney. The team at MMZ Law understands how important your art collection is and we will work with you to determine what option is best. Contact us today at 909-256-6702 to schedule an initial consultation at our Claremont, California office.




341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.