Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wine Collectors Face Unique Estate Planning Challenges

Laura Collier, known as "The Spirited Lawyer," runs a boutique law practice in Raleigh, NC, focused on the food and beverage industry, including wine and beer retail and distribution.   She is part of the legal movement toward highly specialized client-centered solo practice.  In her case, it is an appetizing practice area as well! 

I should disclose that I have a personal tie to Laura:  As a first-year law school classmate, I often relied on her excellent memory if I missed something in Constitutional Law class.  And today, she is again helping me!  I asked "The Spirited Lawyer" if there are any unusual estate planning concerns specific to fine wine collectors, and she helped me with the content for this article:

Laura explains that wine stores frequently encounter an estate planning-related situation:  The family of a recently-deceased wine collector will ask if the store is interested in buying the deceased's wine collection.  Intuitively, this would make sense.  When a family member dies, the executor, trustee, or administrator of the estate often conducts a sale of property, the proceeds of which are to be divided according to the deceased's wishes (or according to state intestacy laws).  The sale often includes tangible investment property, which might include rare baseball cards, antique cars, or any other collectible items.  The estate sale can be a relatively straightforward process, particularly if the deceased was foresighted enough to enact a well-drafted estate plan

However, the rules for selling a deceased's wine collection are far more complex than the rules for selling baseball cards or antique cars.  The legal difficulty is rooted in the unpopular three-tier system for distribution of alcohol in the United States, a relic of the post-prohibition era.  In most states, retailers can only buy alcohol from distributors, and distributors can only buy from manufacturers or importers.  Although these laws were conceived in the wake of the era of Al Capone, they continue to shape modern liquor industry trends well into the 21st Century.  In my state of Illinois (also Al Capone's state!), the three-tier system remains solidly entrenched.  And the personal representative of an estate does not easily fit into this legal framework.

Fortunately, in Laura's state of North Carolina, the legislature passed a law allowing for a special one-time permit to sell alcohol received through inheritance or similar circumstances.  The law does require the alcohol be sold by the estate to an end user (which would still prevent the sale of a wine collection directly to a wine store).  However, auction houses can help facilitate sales by an estate to other wine collectors.  Other states have different ways of dealing with this unique situation.  Before attempting to pursue an alcohol auction or any other means of disposing of your estate's alcohol, contact a local attorney that specializes in this unique area.

One final consideration for anyone considering leaving behind a valuable wine collection:  Protect your assets from physical deterioration due to temperature, light exposure, breakage, flooding, etc.  Also review your insurance policy coverage and limits. It would be a shame to lose a portion of your family's valuable assets to a physical threat.

Thanks again to Laura Collier, The Spirited Lawyer, for her help with this post!

Published by Ian Holzhauer, Esq. of Nagle Obarski PC in Naperville, IL.   

Note:  The information above is not legal advice and is not the basis of an attorney-client relationship.  If you need assistance, you can hire an attorney to assist you with your individual legal needs. 


  1. Every country have their own rules and regulation regarding the wine selling. And there are some restriction on the transfer of property and wine selling that varies with the age,You can check more about wine business here.Wine cooler by Cong Nguyen

  2. If you are a student then assignment tasks are also given to you because these are considered as the main tools for judging student’s knowledge all around the world. Students do not understand the real meaning of these types of assignments and only consider them a means of achieving good grades but in reality this is an awfully daunting work. Further, it is also essential to follow the demands of your teachers which make this work more difficult. The worst of all, fast approaching deadlines makes you feeling nuts and in the end all you can get is a low performance certificate from the teachers. The good thing is we are just a click away from you and you can bring an end to your problems by hiring Essay Writer us now!

  3. Many individuals just buy wine when they require it, and manage with a little cooler as they're not anticipating keeping more than twelve or so bottles available. bestkegeratorinfo

  4. Let's say you go to a restaurant or a friend's house, test your beloved wine, go home, find a wine brewery that produces wine online, or schedule a visit. wine club

  5. I think this is one of the most significant information for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But should remark on some general things, The web site style is perfect, the articles is really great : D. Good job, cheers Detroit MI

  6. Good composed article. It will be steady to any individual who uses it, including me. Continue doing what you are doing – can'r hold up to peruse more posts.

  7. The diversity of red wine is such that it can go with any type of food. But you must absolutely not conclude from this that all red wines are identical.
    Direct Cellars wine club

  8. America Gun Ban Home, Syndicated by Countrymen Your News Source Worldwide. Taking the stink out of Gun Control and being a Patriot.  Choose a handyman or contractor

  9. Awesome things you've generally imparted to us. Simply continue written work this sort of posts.The time which was squandered in going for educational cost now it can be utilized for studies.Thanks gutter companies in raleigh nc

  10. Most of the time I don’t make comments on websites, but I'd like to say that this article really forced me to do so. Really nice post! Real Estate upkeep