A word of advice to New Jersey residents: don't forget the attic. That simple estate planning advice could earn a Midwestern family about $3 million, even though it took them over 60 years to realize what their grandfather had left behind. The grandfather, who died in the 1940s, ran a local meat market. The house and its contents eventually went to his two daughters, the last of which died in October, 2011. She left everything to 20 nieces and nephews.
The youngest was put in charge of the estate, and he began to sift through three generations of clothes, old calendars and trunks. It took him until February, 2012 before he got to the items in the attic. There, under an old dollhouse, he discovered a green cardboard box with clips of metal on the corners. Opening the old lid, he found 700 old baseball cards wrapped in twine, smaller than the cards he was used to seeing. He placed them on a dresser and kept digging through the attic.
But the names on the cards caught his interest: Cy Young, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson. A few weeks later he decided to investigate. In time, he learned he had uncovered what has been called the Mona Lisa of baseball card finds -- a circa 1910 collection, referred to as the E98 series. Subsequently confirmed as authentic, many of the cards have been graded in near perfect condition. They are now scheduled to be auctioned during the National Sports Collectors Convention in August.
So what's the estate planning lesson? Like we said at the outset, don't forget the attic. Whether you are in the midst of estate planning, or are trying to settle the New Jersey estate of a loved one, the personal property left behind may have hidden value -- now or in the future. This baseball card collection escaped notice of heirs for decades. They will now be divided among 20 very fortunate nieces and nephews, many of whom may not even have known the grandfather who originally put them away for safekeeping.
Source: cleveland.com, "Ohio man's heirs find hundreds of rare 1910 baseball cards in grandfather's dusty attic," July 10, 2012
- Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our New Jersey Will, Estates & Trusts page.