Artistate Q & A

Wills & Estate Planning

A Will is a document drafted to express and record a person's wishes as to how their property (or estate) is to be dealt with after their death. By writing a Will, artists can ensure that their art is dealt with in accordance with their wishes and thereby effectively prepare their legacy.

1. Why do I need a Will?

There are a range of benefits to drafting a Will. A well-drafted Will will guide executor(s) efficiently in the management of the artist’s works and the preservation of the artist’s legacy. For example, a will can determine any of the following:

  • whether works can be sold or gifted to beneficiaries;

  • who will benefit from the copyright, moral rights and ARR following the artist’s death;

  • whether any works or related personal belongings of the artist such as sketches, sketchbooks, diaries or letters may be shown to the public;

  • what happens to the artist’s archives;

  • who will be in charge of preserving and enhancing the artist’s legacy; and

  • whether works should be kept in a particular location such as a country, city, or museum.

The absence of a Will can result in decades of litigation amongst family members. So can a poorly drafted Will. If an artist is interested in preserving their legacy, having a well-drafted Will is a priority.

2. Should I take any steps other than drafting a Will to plan the future of my estate?

Writing a Will is an important first step towards the successful management of an artist’s legacy. However, artists may wish to complement this by taking steps to ensure that the right environment exists for the Will to be executed. This includes but is not limited to:

  • choosing executor(s) who lack financial interest in the works and have the requisite expertise to preserve the artist’s legacy;

  • creating an inventory of works and documenting their location(s);

  • providing information and documentation which can in the future be relied upon to prove the authenticity of the works, such as signing them, cataloguing them, or undertaking a catalogue raisonné project;

  • commissioning a professional appraisal of the works remaining in the artist’s possession;

  • obtaining tax advice to minimise the tax payable by the estate or maximise desired charitable benefits; and

  • obtaining legal advice to ensure that the form in which the Will is drafted is valid and that it accurately reflects the wishes of the artist.

By Mona Yapova, Constantine Cannon LLP

The law varies from country to country.  In this section of the website, we describe the law as it applies in England and Wales.  Whilst similar principles apply in other European countries, and to a lesser extent, in the USA, please do not assume that the law is the same.  For example, artists have stronger moral rights in countries applying the Napoleonic codes than in England and Wales. The information provided on this page is general and may not apply in a specific situation. In doubt, please seek legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. The authors accept no responsibility for the content of this page.