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Question: Seeing all the great cars in town for Classic Car Week reminded me of something that happened on a cousin’s estate. He was also a car enthusiast and when he died he owned two rare and beautiful Rolls Royce automobiles which he passed on to his son. When the son went to sell one of the cars, no documents could be found indicating where my cousin had purchased the car. In other words, it looked sketchy, so the son decided not to sell the car. When he shared the story with me, I told the son that I was with my cousin when he bought it and gave him the details of when and where his father bought it. It was a “barn find” and my cousin worked for years to restore it and replace parts with genuine ones when he could find them. It really is a nice car. With the information I gave him, the son was able to get duplicate documents and ended up selling the Rolls. Because he was able to get some history on the car, I think he got more for it. Just a lesson you need to insure and keep documents on vintage or rare cars.

Answer: Thanks for sharing your story. Provenance, the history of ownership of valuables, art or literature, is extremely important when it comes to passing valuable and possibly valuable items to our heirs. Most cars have title deeds with the DMV, but art, coins, books, and the like are harder to trace. This is why it is essential to keep receipts, appraisals and any history you may have of ownership of an item before you and when purchasing.

Around the world, there are many examples of misappropriated artistic and cultural assets held by families and passed down from generation to generation. Without provenance, how can a family defend the property, should it be questioned? Also, on a more philosophical level, if a family member removed art from a war-torn country and essentially saved it if the art was illegally removed, the family member is guilty of theft? Should art be returned or repatriated? The resolution of these questions is certainly beyond the scope of this column in addition to having made a digression from the original remarks on the Rolls Royce.

Bottom line, keep the papers and pass them along with your treasured heirlooms.

Question: I have appointed a trustee and an executor. My question is, how will they be informed of my death?

Answer: This question comes up often and there’s no one way your trustee or executor will know when it’s time to act. Personally, I advise clients to put my business card in their wallet with a note that says, “In case of hospitalization or death, contact this office.” That way, if a customer is involved in an accident or can’t speak for themselves, we get a call and know it’s time to intervene. It also helps in case there are pets at home that need to be taken care of.

We have been contacted by neighbors who notice that their friend next door has not been seen in a while, children are calling to let us know something is up with a parent or, in some dire situation and tragedy where a client committed suicide, he left a note that read, “Contact Liza Horvath, she knows what to do.” As an aside, even though we are professionals in this field, every notification is sad.

Liza Horvath has over 30 years of experience in the areas of estate planning and trusts and is a licensed professional trustee. Liza is currently President of Monterey Trust Management. It is not legal or tax advice. If you have a question, call (831) 646-5262 or email [email protected]

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