Friday, July 11, 2008

Estate planning for artists

Jimi Hendrix
graphite , 11 x 14 on Canson
copyright Jeanette Jobson

Many visual artists joke that their work will only be valuable once they are dead. And unfortunately, that often is the case. We all seem to value something more when we know the source no longer exists.

As an artist with less years in front of me than behind, I sometimes do a little introspective thinking and wonder what will happen to my art when I am dead. That may sound morbid, but in reality its quite practical to consider this and to make plans for my art while I'm alive and have the mental faculties to think rationally. We chronical the times in which we live through our art. It would be the logical thing to do the plan what happens to those valued pieces after our death. Recent delves into family history bring home to me the need for accurate records, dates and information to enable individuals in the future to track history.

How will I manage my estate? To be honest, I'm only just seriously thinking about it now and researching exactly what I need to do to ensure it lives into the future and is not collecting dust in a basement or attic in a relative's house somewhere. I need to rewrite a will and ensure that it becomes the document that gives me a little immortality despite my mortality.

Here are a few starting points to get you thinking about your art and where you want it to go when you are no longer here.

  • Create an inventory of your art works.
Some of us have that already, some have partial lists or don't keep lists up to date. It is important to have a record of your pieces, including any relevant information about them, such as size, medium, date completed, title and, if it was sold or gifted and to who and the price if sold.

  • Define copyright of your art pieces
Copyright can be flexible and you may choose to leave a painting to one person and copyright to a painting to another. You may want to give a gallery copyright to reproduce your work in exhibition catalogues or make postcards from it. You can control reproduction of your work through copyright licensing.

  • Make a will
Many people mistakenly believe that having a will is not a priority. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a will is probably the most important document you will ever write.

If you die without a will, the province in which you live will decide how to distribute your estate.

You can dispose of any of your property in your will, from major assets such as buildings or trust funds to your personal possessions and, of course, your art. Specific bequests can be made to non profits, personal friends or other relations. The benefits of having a will ensure that disputes will not occur over property or personal asset distribution and that your wishes are maintained.

Suggested reading

Where There's a Will - Estate planning for artists. This is a comprehensive document (55 pages!) about planning your estate, your will, copyright etc. It is Australian, but the information is very broad based.

Visual Artist's Guide to Estate Planning - The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation

Checklist for Planning Your Art Estate - ArtBusiness

Let Professionals Manage the Art

Estate Planning for Artists - the Crafts Report

Senior Artists Initiative

Finally, do you want to know how long you'll live? Well, there are many variables including lifestyle, diet, exercise, external environment, etc.

The Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator uses the most current and carefully researched medical and scientific data in order to estimate how old you will live to be. Most people score in their late eighties... how about you?

My calculated life expectancy is 94. I guess I have 40 years of drawing left to do...


Anonymous said...

Very interesting Jeanette, and thanks for the list of resources.
We're so busy trying to make a living, we don't think about dying. Recently, there's been a number of unexpected deaths around me and I only just started the process of getting a will.
I agree; good starting points!

Jeanette said...

Its human nature to not think about the inevitability of death as we don't want to confront it. Having seen the confusion and frustration that not having a will causes, it is well worth the time to consider what your legacy will be into the future.