How to ensure your legacy - the importance of estate planning for artists


The piece below in the Art Newspaper is an excellent summary of the reasons why it is so important for artists to give as much thought to estate and succession planning as everyone else, and perhaps even more to their legacy.  Just because you are producing artistic works that will continue to exist after your death does not mean that they will be looked after, exhibited and sold in the way you would want, unless you have made clear what should happen.  

Careful thought is required to ensure that exhibitions, for example, are staged and promoted in line with your wishes, and that provenance, authenticity and tax issues are also properly considered.  This is without even establishing which members of your family will inherit some or all of your works, and which may take an active role in providing a personal and family perspective on the management of your legacy.

As the article makes clear, to avoid the role of legacy manager ending up solely on the shoulders of a relative, artists should bring in professionals at as early a stage as possible.  Working together, dealers, galleries and estate planning lawyers experienced in advising artists, can help you to plan the details of how you would like your work to be looked after and exploited after your death.  They can ensure that costly legal battles over issues such as authenticity or conflicts of interest are avoided.  Tax will also need to be considered carefully, in all relevant jurisdictions, to ensure that advantage is taken of any available reliefs or exemptions for cultural property (for example, from inheritance tax in the UK).

Planning early is also valuable because you can also consider lifetime planning points, such as what would happen if you started to lose mental capacity while you were still working, or remained in charge of managing your art.  You can put in place Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs), including a business LPA, in favour of members of your family, or a relevant professional, to enable them to manage your personal and financial affairs, as well as the business side of your art, when you are unable to do so. 

There are also other points you may need to consider - for example, how best to plan for your succession when you have more than one family, how to set up a trust or foundation, how to benefit charity or donate work to museums or galleries.  These are all points to review with your advisers at the earliest possible opportunity.


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The stewardship of an artist’s legacy, however firmed up it may be in advance, still comes with a complex and growing set of responsibilities.
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