I would hope so.
Originally Posted by ntenny
It belongs to the estate. If there is a Will, it will set out most of the estate's obligations with respect to the property in the estate. You need legal advice from a lawyer with knowledge of estate law in the jurisdiction that applies.
If you are in a jurisdiction that levies estate taxes, those taxes will most likely have to be paid on the value of the collection, unless it fits within a statutory exception.
In most jurisdictions, all the beneficiaries can come to an agreement about selling an estate asset to anyone, including one of the beneficiaries. In addition, in most jurisdictions it is possible to agree to a beneficiary receiving items directly as part of their inheritance.
That may not be easy or possible if any of the beneficiaries are not adults, or are not legally capable of consenting to such an agreement.
In almost all cases, an independent appraisal of value from a knowledgeable and expert third party is important to protect the estate, the executor and the person buying/receiving the items. That appraisal can be used to determine how much insurance to place on the collection pending distribution or sale.
A Leica collection may or may not fit within the definition of the phrase "personal effects" as it may be found in Wills.
Talk to a lawyer.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
Well... from what I understand, you are not directly related to the deceased and you were only helping clean up. Then nothing you found belongs to you - that is, you have no right to assume you can claim possession of anything you find. But, I am assuming you are close enough to the family of the deceased and trusted enough to assist in clean up effort. Then the right thing to do is to explain to the family member of the deceased such as wife, explain what you found, how much it is worth, why you are interested, and ask if you may keep it and perhaps offer some money. It would be up to the immediate family member of the deceased to give you or sell you the equipment. Unless of course, the deceased himself/herself had left explicit instructions in form of a will. That equipment may already belong to someone by will.
The way I see it, you don't have a dilemma. You are looking at something that is not yours. It may not even be that complicated. All it takes may be the family member to say, "keep it."
I'm going with limited knowledge of your situation and I am certainly not a lawyer.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
All really great responses so far, so a big thank you to everyone!
Since the most recent post is on the top of my head...I am related, so I don't expect relation (or non-) to be an issue.
It seems that many personal possessions are, in fact, dealt with in the will. The Leica items are not explicitly dealt with. Apparently (from what I'm just learning), the Leicas were willed somewhat recently FROM a long-time neighbor/family friend TO my relative. Hence, why no one knew they really existed in the first place.
In any case, the process continues, and a lawyer is involved. I'm sure updates will be forthcoming.
My personal feelings: I first felt strongly towards the Leicas because my initial impression was that they belonged to my relative. Since it appears they belonged originally to a family friend, some of that sentimentality has worn off. But I still enjoy and pursue photography and certainly understand what it means to have found Leicas in particular, and I still don't want that to be lost on my family/the estate sale/estate sale buyers/etc. As long as there are no legal hurdles and other family members approve, my thoughts at this point are to get the equipment appraised and CLAd if necessary. Since the family friend clearly felt strongly that my grandfather in particular have them, I would not like to see them simply bid away to the highest bidder at a sale. I would prefer they go to people who can appreciate them and most of all take advantage of them and create pictures! Perhaps it is a bit idealistic of me, but so be it.
Thanks again for everyone's responses so far. Much appreciated!
In my experience of disposing of deceased persons' effects, it is often the case that relatives have no idea what to do with most of the items and unless they are particularly money-grabbing an expression of interest in something usually seems to be met with a response along the lines of "he'd have been glad to think someone would make use of it". If none of the other interested parties has any designs on the equipment, then I'd hope they'd be happy for you to take possession of the camera kit whilst they, perhaps, have the diamond earrings, original oil painting, etc. that maybe you don't want. If you all get along and can agree on the fate of the items some of you want, so much the better. I imagine the extent of any legal niceties will depend on the nature of any will (if one exists) but as a rule the involvement of the legal profession is best kept to a minimum!
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
That has been my experience too.
Originally Posted by Steve Roberts
Originally Posted by Steve Roberts
I've acted as an executor many times in the course of my professional work. An executor (relative or not) cannot, ever, "help himself" to anything, unless specifically written in the will. You would be breaking the law (theft), not to mention any matters of conscience. Neither can a friend, relative, helper or anyone else.
There are legitimate ways in which beneficiaries may agree that some item be taken by one of the them as part of their legacy, generally at an independent valuation. And their is nothing to prevent someone making an offer for a particular item....but, to protect everyone involved, I would never do that without an independent valuation. You may "know" that the Leica gear is worth
more than the family may realise, but that is no excuse, legally or morally, to take any advantage for yourself.
I was once the professional executor of an estate where the gentleman had left a very nice top-end Bolex cine camera and projector. I expressed my interest to his son and daughter...they said "have them if you'd like them". I insisted, however, on buying then from the estate at a valuation provided by a local photo dealer....solely because I had to be seen as independent and professional. Not worth doing things any other way.
If there are only a few beneficiaries to the will and they all agree to one person having a particular item then there cannot be any problem (unless of course if the magnitude of the estate is such that it would need death duty tax paid on it).
When my father died it was decided that I would have his camera collection, my two brothers would have his racing bicycles and wristwatch collection respectively and that my sister would have something else (I forget what it was now). There was no need or desire to have any of it valued, it was just assumed that this is what would happen.
Likewise when my other half's mother died. The four offspring got together over a few cups of tea and discussed who wanted what. It was all sorted amicably, with things that none of the beneficiaries wanted being offered to hangers-on (like me) followed by charity shops. I was offered (and accepted) a very nice Pentax S1a that my other half's father had bought new in Hong Kong and came with all the original paperwork, clip-on meter and a couple of Takumar lenses. The thing that no-one wanted was a three y.o. Peugeot 205 with only 7,000 miles on it. The rest of the family had much newer and fancier cars, so we ended up with it by default. Twenty years and nearly 300,000 miles later, we still have it and it's still going strong. In the snow of the last few days it's been a godsend - much better than my rear wheel drive Vauxhall!
Originally Posted by Steve Smith
That's fine....but the important thing was that it was sorted by agreement of all four beneficiaries.
Originally Posted by Steve Roberts
No one "helped themselves".
(The OP could be read as though he was wanting to grab the rather nice Leica gear without accounting for its true value to the beneficiaries.....I'm quite sure that was not his intention, but, reading that way, is what is causing concern to other posters.)