When someone passes away, one of the first duties of the executors is to secure and protect all assets forming part of the estate. This will involve reviewing the insurance coverage for such assets and obtaining increased or additional coverage of the assets where necessary.
Last year, the New York Times published an interesting article regarding the estate sale of the art collection owned by the late Merce Cunningham, the renowned New York choreographer, and his partner, the late composer John Cage.
The collection was valued at 3.5 to 5 million dollars and appears to have been made up largely of art work gifted to the two men by their friends, who happened to include the notable American modern artists Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Philip Guston.
The article tells a delightful anecdote about Mr. Cunningham’s and Mr. Cage’s choice not to insure their art collection during their lifetimes. When queried by their accountant as to what would happen if a fire destroyed the entire collection, Mr. Cunningham replied “Our friends would paint us new ones.”
Unfortunately, not all executors are as lucky in friends as Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Cage and therefore if you are acting as the executor of an estate with valuable assets (whether it be a collection of American modern art or otherwise), you need to preserve and protect the assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries, even if the deceased never felt the need to do so during his or her lifetime.