FAQ


Why should I plan my estate?

Planning your estate allows you to ensure that your work and your assets are preserved to your specifications.  Without planning your estate, your work can be lost, stolen, or simply thrown away. Moreover, your loved ones will not be provided for according to your wishes.  For more, click Getting Started.
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What are the steps to estate planning?

The steps to estate planning are 1. Inventorying your work. 2. Valuing your works. 3. Choosing beneficiaries. 4. Choosing an executor. 5. Drafting a will. 6. Updating your will periodically.
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What is an inventory?

An inventory is basically a list of your works.  Most inventories include the title of the work, date of creation, medium, a photograph of the work, and the monetary value of the work. For more, click Inventory
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How do I inventory my work?

There are numerous programs that help with inventorying that range in price from free to very expensive.  The most important thing to remember is to get all of the information down in some digital form that can be easily updated.  For more, and a free inventory template, click Inventory
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How do I value my work?

Although there is no definitive way to value any given artwork, there are guidelines that many artists follow.  Artists often value a work based on the prices they have sold similar pieces for in the past.  Size, time spent on the work, when the work is created, what series the work is part of, condition and quality are other factors many artists take into account in pricing a work.  NOTE: Valuing your artwork has important estate and tax consequences. While this website can help you learn about that process, each person’s circumstances are different and the assistance of an attorney/accountant is highly recommended.
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What is a beneficiary?

A beneficiary is usually a person, although it can be an organization, that one designates to receive your artwork and/or other assets upon death.  You can designate more than one beneficiary.  Beneficiaries are often an artist’s children, grandchildren, spouse, partner or a gallery. For more, click Choosing Beneficiaries.
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How do I choose my beneficiaries?

Although there is no one determinative factor in choosing beneficiaries, most people weigh different considerations. These include who you want to receive certain assets, whether a potential beneficiary will properly care for your work, where you want your work ultimately to end up, and the tax consequences of choosing one beneficiary over another.  For more, click Choosing Beneficiaries.
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What is an executor?

An executor is the person named in your will to carry out the directions contained in the will.  The executor is given the power to carry out the instructions.  An executor is not automatically paid for his/her work, but provisions within the will can provide for payment out of the estate.  For more, click Choosing an Executor.
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How do I choose an executor?

An executor should be someone that you trust to carry out your wishes.  An executor need not have any legal training or expertise.  In many instances executors are the children, spouse or partner of the deceased or a close and trusted friend.  An executor must be 18 years old and a United States citizen.  For more, click Choosing an Executor.
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Do executors get paid for their time working on my estate?

Executors don’t automatically get paid for their time working on the estate.  However, provisions for payment can be authorized by the will-maker in the will itself.  For more, click Choosing an Executor.
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What is a will?

A will is a legal document that specifies how the will-maker’s belongings will be allocated upon death.  By law, the will must be followed by the executor, unless it was written under undue influence, fraud, or mistake.  For more, click Making a Will.
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Why should I have a will?

A person who dies without a will is said to die “intestate” (literally translated, “without testament”).  Without a will, the estate will be distributed according to the laws of the state.  A will allows the will-maker to override the state law, specifically name his/her heirs and indicate what each heir will receive.  A will also allows for instructions as to how property should be cared for upon death.  For more, click Making a Will.
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What happens if I don’t have a will?

If you die without a will, your belongings will be allocated according to the laws of the State of New York.  A quite complicated succession of interested parties will have claim to your property.  For more, click “What happens if I don’t have a will?”
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How often do I update my will?

Although there is no hard and fast rule for how often one should update his or her will, many artists update if a major life event has happened, such as a birth or death of a loved one.  It is important to update your will when a sizable collection of work has been created, but remain unaccounted for in the will.  For more, click “How often do I need to update my will?”
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How much does it cost to hire a lawyer to write my will?

Lawyers charge different fees for their work.  On average, a lawyer will charge a few hundred dollars for a basic will. Some free or low cost alternatives also exist. For more, click “Do I need someone to write my will for me?”
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What is the difference between a trust and a will?

A trust is a legal entity that, similarly to a will, provides instructions how you want certain assets distributed upon death.  However, a trust may minimize gift and estate taxes that are paid by a beneficiary.  A trust usually deals with specific assets whereas a will accounts for all assets.
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I am affiliated with a gallery.  What is the role of my dealer?

If you are affiliated with a gallery, the role of your dealer will depend on the relationship you already have with your dealer.  A dealer can be a trusted friend who you may want to serve as your executor.  A dealer or the gallery may also be a beneficiary if you want to give your work to the dealer.  It is important to discuss with your dealer, in advance, what you envision his/her role will be in your estate planning process. Remember however, that you must make a will in order to control what happens to your art and other assets. Conversations, emails, letters etc., do not bind your executor. Only your will can do that.
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How can I contact someone to help?

For questions or further assistance, please contact Joan Jeffri, the Director at the Research Center for Arts & Culture (contact information provided below).

Joan Jeffri, Director
Research Center for Arts & Culture, National Center for Creative Aging
Phone: (202) 895-9456
E-mail: rcac@creativeaging.org

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