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  • Jane Messenger

How to Value a Deceased Family Member's Art Collection: A Guide to Estate Appraisal

La Vague in the home of Peggy and David Rockefeller

Managing the intergenerational transfer and dispersal of a deceased family member's art collection can be both emotionally and financially challenging. The importance of obtaining an accurate valuation for a collection cannot be understated and is crucial in estate planning as well as for peace of mind. Informing any decisions concerning the distribution of the inheritance and removing uncertainty Messenger art specialises in estate management and appraisals. Assisting our clients by developing strategies for custodianship and providing comprehensive guidance and assistance navigating the art market.

Understanding Estate Appraisal

When a person’s estate includes a collection of artworks it is important to get an accurate appraisal, determining their fair market value and ensuring fair division of the estate. In approaching the valuation process, it is important to:

  • Hiring a Qualified Appraiser: Engaging an estate specialist who is properly certified and well experienced. Look for professionals accredited by reputable organisations such as the Auctioneers and Valuers Association of Australia (AVAA), the Federal Government Taxation Scheme for the Arts and the National Council of Jewellery Valuers.

  • Cataloguing the Collection: Compile a detailed inventory of the art collection, including descriptions, dimensions, medium, artist attributions, and provenance if available. This information is essential for the appraiser to assess the value accurately. As part of the valuation process, Messenger Art Advisory also manages the cataloguing of the collection for clients.

  • Conducting Appraisal: The appraiser or valuer will then conduct thorough research, considering factors such as the current market demand for similar artworks, the artist’s reputation, the date and period of the particular artwork relative to the artist’s oeuvre, condition, rarity and historical sales data.

Factors Influencing Valuation

What are the key factors influencing the valuation of artworks in a deceased estate?

  • Artist Attribution and Reputation: If an artwork has been made by a well-known artist with established market demand the value will typically be higher.

  • Condition and Provenance: Depending on the condition and provenance of the artwork the value will change as well, with a well-documented historical provenance typically associated with a higher value. Original receipts, exhibition records, and certificates of authenticity are valuable supporting documents.

  • Market Trends: Evolving trends in the art market, including shifts in collector preferences as well as demand for specific styles or genres, similarly impact valuation..

Estate Planning and Distribution

An accurate value is critical in achieving a desired estate plan and inheritance distribution.

  • Estate Planning: The appraisal provides clarity on the overall value of the artworks, for tax purposes, estate planning and probate proceedings.

  • Inheritance Distribution: A transparent and accurate value, ensures fair and equitable distribution of the inheritance, minimising disputes and granting peace of mind to all.


As an appraiser, valuing a deceased family member’s art collection requires certainty, experience and expertise. Understanding the complexities of the art market and the value of clarity Messenger Art can help you navigate the estate appraisal process with confidence.

If you do choose to engage our services, we would provide you with the personalised guidance and assistance ensuring the proper valuation and management of your collection.

Contact us today to discuss your specific needs and discover how we can help you.


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