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The Art of Estate Planning

Probably because I have been on an Antiques Roadshow watching kick of late, I have been thinking about how artists should handle their art in their estates. Art, after all, is an asset. As an artist, your work and creations are an important part of your identity and can continue to inspire and touch people’s lives long after you are gone. Your estate plan should include addressing physical artwork but also copyrights, trademarks, royalties, and digital assets – I’ll use the general term “artist assets” from now on.  By including your artistic assets, you can ensure that your legacy lives on and that your work is protected and distributed according to your wishes. Proper estate planning can also help to minimize potential disputes among heirs and ensure that your artistic vision is what people remember your work for and not the family squabble. By planning for the future of your art, you can leave a lasting impact on the world and preserve your creative legacy for generations to come. 

What happens to your artistic assets without an estate plan?  Their fate could be uncertain and potentially lead to disputes among your heirs.  Translation from legalese:  You lose control, and your family could end up in a long, expensive court process.  When your wishes are not guiding the process, your artwork and digital assets could be sold or distributed in a way that goes against your values and could damage the legacy you have worked so hard to create.  Now you see why it is crucial to have a solid estate plan in place to ensure that your artistic legacy is protected and preserved for future generations with minimal hassle.

If you are married, you can further protect your artistic assets by addressing them in a martial agreement by including specific clauses that cover the ownership and distribution of these assets in case of divorce or separation.  This can include specifying that artistic assets are separate property and should not be subject to division or distribution in a divorce settlement.  

Bottom line:  It is important to consult with an experienced attorney who can help you create a solid plan – both estate documents and marital agreements – that meets your specific needs and protects your artistic legacy.  Creating a comprehensive estate plan will allow you to focus on what you do best: create amazing art and inspire others.