Death and taxes are inevitable. As a past collections curator and professor of museum studies, I specialize in both collections management AND hold the expertise to appraise large collections of African art. For example, I just completed a complex 7000 piece appraisal for a Trust that needed an appraiser to assign a Fair Market Value to determine the maximum amount allowed for a Marital deduction (see definition below).
Appraisers DO NOT authenticate. That is a very expensive, time consuming proposition (and sometimes impossible). However, I can arrange to have that done for a client (like the PBS series show _History Detective_ ). What I really MUST do as a qualified appraiser, is apply "due diligence" to determine likelihood of authenticity. Generally, I assume that all African works are decorative unless provenance or objective analysis weighs the scale more in favor of authenticity. I don't believe anyone can tell just by "eye", if a piece is authentic. Nevertheless, by carefully examining a piece I can often determine when and where it was made, and/or if it is likely to be suspect.
THE MARITAL DEDUCTION: A VALUABLE ESTATE PLANNING TOOL
The federal estate tax marital deduction is one of the most important estate planning tools available to a married couple. The basic marital deduction rule is that, upon the death of the first spouse, the value of any interest in property passing to the surviving spouse is deducted from the decedent spouse's gross estate. This means that the amount passing to the surviving spouse escapes taxation in the decedent spouse's estate.
There is no limitation on the value of property that can qualify for the marital deduction. By transferring sufficient assets to the surviving spouse in the proper manner, estate tax liability upon the first spouse's death can be completely avoided.
At first view, the estate tax marital deduction may seem to be a government giveaway. It is not. The advantage afforded is not the total avoidance of estate tax on the transferred property but, rather, the deferral of such tax. The marital deduction requires that the transfer of assets to the surviving spouse be made in such a way that those assets are exposed to estate tax liability in the surviving spouse's estate.
The obvious advantage of deferring the estate tax liability is that the surviving spouse will have the use of the tax dollars that would otherwise have been paid to satisfy the tax liability of the first spouse's estate. The deferral of tax liability also postpones the possible need to sell off assets that the surviving spouse might wish to preserve in order to obtain funds to satisfy the tax liability.
Michael W. Conner PhD., ISA-AM
ArtConsul Collections Management & Appraisal
4002 Turnberry Drive, Champaign, IL 61822
Cell: (217) 369-9875 FAX-PH: (217) 352-5641
On Apr 1, 2010, at 10:58 PM, Aaron Weston wrote:
Believe it or not, your situation is not at all rare. I know a person who probably has 50-100 thousand pieces. The interesting phenomenon of African Art, no matter how many copies are made, there are no two pieces that are exactly alike!