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EASL Speakers Bureau/New York Foundation of the Arts Program: Your Art Will Outlive You - How to Protect it Now!

The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) and New York State Bar Association Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law Section's Fine Arts and Pro Bono Committees recently joined forces to present a panel about how to preserve and extend a creative legacy after the creator's death. The event was co-moderated by art law professionals Judith Prowda and Carol Steinberg with esteemed legal panelists Elisabeth Conroy, Declan P. Redfern, and Peter Arcese with Alicia Ehni of NYFA Learning.

Estate Planning 101: Advice Provided to Creators

Start planning now. Think about creating a will so that your loved ones are guided by you in making the decisions about your creative work. Wills can be amended and revoked at any time.
Protect your loved ones by making specific bequests in their names, or by setting up a testamentary trust that distributes all or any portion of your estate upon your death.
Think further ahead. You can set up a foundation to maintain an archive of your life and art; support other artists, initiatives, or institutions; and provide and foster scholarship about your work. Notable examples include the Adolph & Esther Gottlieb Foundation, Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, and Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

Key Takeaways

Trust the people that are going to be handling your estate, and select people who understand you and the content and rights of your work.
Keep good records of your creative output throughout your career: Part of what you can do today is to start creating a history of your work. This is of special importance when concerning authentication and helps to preserve the personality of the artist moving forward.
Make clear, precise instructions for those who will be carrying out your estate plans to discourage potential disputes.
Ownership of copyright in your artwork (reproduction rights, etc.) is separate from ownership and or possession of the artwork itself, so it is important to think about who will manage the copyright in the work as well as the work itself.

Helpful Legal Terms

Testator - one who makes a will
Will - a legal document in which you, the testator, declare who will manage your estate after you die
Fiduciary - a personal representative who manages and protects your property or money
Executor - the person, persons, or institution named in the will to manager your estate; be sure to designate someone with legal or financial acumen
Witness - the person who observes the execution of a legal document and authenticates it with his or her signature; the person cannot be the executor or attorney and must be someone who is not receiving anything from your will
Valuation - the process of determining the value or worth of an asset, also used as a synonym for appraisal
Bequest - gift of personal property or possessions by will
Trust - a relationship whereby property is held by one party for the benefit of another
Foundation - a permanent fund established and maintained by contributions for charitable, educational, religious, research, or other benevolent purposes
Copyright - a form of intellectual property that protects creative works for a limited time and gives the copyright holder (typically the creator), the exclusive right to reproduce, create adaptations, distribute, perform, and display
Authentication - the act or mode of giving authority or legal authenticity to a statute, record, or other written instrument or a certified copy thereof

Additional Resources

Courtesy Barbara T. Hoffman, Esq.: A Visual Artist's Guide to Estate Planning (http://www.hoffmanlawfirm.org/Publications/A-Visual-Artists-Guide-to-Estate-Planning-The-Marie-Walsh-Sharpe-Art-Foundation-and-The-Judith-Rothschild-Foundation.pdf), based on a conference co-sponsored by The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation and The Judith Rothschild Foundation, and 2008 Supplement Update (http://www.hoffmanlawfirm.org/Publications/A-Visual-Artists-Guide-to-Estate-Planning-The-2008-Supplement-Update.pdf); see also www.hoffmanlawfirm.org

VLA provides pro-bono arts-related legal representation and education to low-income artists and nonprofit arts and cultural organizations. VLA's Artists Over Sixty program provides legal services and education to senior artists to address age-specific legal and business issues.

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