Legal Blog

The Weekly Scenario from Steve Shane – 12.16.13

Question:  I have a very substantial wine collection which will likely require special handling after my death.  Can I put someone in charge of auctioning, selling, consigning, etc. the wine after my death? Answer:  It is reported that at Zachys’ New York auction 9 bottles of 1947 Chateau L’Evangile sold for $245,000.  With the wine market becoming increasingly popular, it is not entirely uncommon for an estate to come into a sizable and valuable wine collection. One possibility is to create a wine trust (yes wine in a trust).  A ‘purpose’ trust is established for a specific purpose rather than for the benefit of individual beneficiaries.  Until purpose trusts were specifically permitted, often they were treated as ‘honorary trusts’ which were unenforceable if the named Trustee failed to carry out its specified purpose.  Often these trusts are highly regulated.  Just to give you an idea, purposes trusts include funeral and cemetery trusts, gun trusts, pet trusts and certain trusts for charitable purposes. For a wine collection meant for the long haul, a wine trust may be a very good vehicle to fulfill your goals.  Like artwork or jewelry, the Trustee has a duty to preserve or store a collection appropriately.  For wine, this is no easy task.  I’m not a wine expert, but I know for example that humidity and temperature needs to be controlled, wine cannot be exposed to sunlight and wine should be stored on its side. Having a wine trusts with available funds permits the fiduciary to fund the long-term storage of the wine and allow a fiduciary time to maintain insurance for the collection, periodically check on the wine, bring bottles to auction and provide a mechanism to ensure top dollar for valuable bottles.  The trust could also permit donations to charity and a termination date when the trust would end. Upon death, the fiduciary would have the collection inventoried and appraised to determine the proper course of action.  Hopefully, during the planning process, the details will be worked out. Comment: This attorney always welcomes the opportunity to do some decanting of the non-legal variety! Steven E. Shane Principal Offit│Kurman Attorneys At Law 301.575.0313 Washington 410.218.9339 Mobile 301.575.0335 Facsimile Please note the above material discussed is intended to provide only general information. Do not, under any circumstances, solely rely on this information as legal advice. Legal matters are often complicated. For assistance with your specific legal problem or inquiry please contact me directly.