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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Swan

Which artist is most like your estate planning personality?

Creating enduring, provocative pieces of art sounds like a fascinating and exciting career, unless you forget to make an estate plan and suddenly anything can happen. If your works are valuable and well-received, there's a chance there will be disputes over where they'll be stored, who will own them, and how they can be reproduced. So, when it comes to estate planning, are you more of a Picasso or a James Joyce?

Pablo Picasso: Caution to the Wind

Do you think not having a will is the best way to go? When Pablo Picasso died without a will, he also had 45,000 works in his collection and four children by three different women. Without any direction from their father, his children were forced to decide which works could be displayed, which works to sell, and how to manage the estate. This has all been complicated by the fact that interest continues to grow in Picasso's work. His children have made careers of managing his estate, because it has taken years to unravel and organize his intentions.

Takeaway: Not having an estate plan is easy for you, but it leaves a tangled mess for your heirs to sort out. Not to mention that it jeopardizes your potential to have some control over your legacy, like what happens to your money and your treasured belongings.

Thomas Kinkade: Change Your Mind

Have you changed your mind since your last estate plan? The "Painter of Light" had a will that was witnessed and signed with the help of an attorney, but it was somewhat outdated. After his death, his current girlfriend produced two new wills, written by hand, that named her as the executor of the estate, and left her $10 million to start a museum of his works. The conflict between the differing wills caused a lawsuit that left a tarnish on the artist's legacy.

Takeaway: Don't hand-write your will. Hire an attorney to draft a legally enforceable will that is less likely to be contested in court.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: Taxing Legacy

What happens if you don't plan for taxes? Jean Michel Basquiat didn't have a will, but he had two living parents who split his estate, including many original artworks and a collection that included some paintings by Andy Warhol. Basquiat's father, Gerard, carefully protected his son's legacy, but he ended up paying hefty taxes because neither his son nor his ex-wife did any planning in advance.

Takeaway: If you have significant assets, tax planning will save your heirs time and money after you pass away.

J.D. Salinger: The After-Death Reveal

Are there things you don't want anyone to know until after you're gone? Then you might be a J.D. Salinger estate planning type, because you need a good estate plan to make this possible. Salinger, the author of the iconic book Catcher in the Rye, wrote many more works but wouldn't allow any of them published in his lifetime. His children have the enormous task of handling his idiosyncratic legacy and doing his work justice. It's a lot to ask of his child, but Matt Salinger is up to the task. He wants to share his father's writings with the world.

Takeaway: Choose someone you know you can trust to maintain your legacy when you're gone. This person might be someone in your family, or they might be a professional in your area.

James Joyce: A Tight Grip on a Legacy

James Joyce's estate is known for their strict protection of Joyce's work. More than seventy years after his death, they still veto a lot of publications and reprintings of his letters and journals. This artist's family values control above all, so their extensive estate planning has allowed them to keep a very close watch on anything that gets printed about Joyce.

Takeaway: If you value control and have something important to protect, make sure your estate plan is in line with your values. It can work for years to come.

So, which type of estate planner are you? Do you want to leave it all up in the air for your heirs? If not, make an appointment with Swan Law today: 970-879-1572 or

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