Sunday, July 4, 2010

What happens to my work when I die 2

The IRS hive, Washington DC

If you are an amateur and don't routinely sell your art, leaving your paintings to your family is no big problem, but if your work has been marketed and you have an established track record and strong prices it can be. Here's the disclaimer, I am not expert in tax law and if you are facing this situation you need a tax professional, the laws are labyrinthine and always changing. The next year brings a massive increase in inheritance taxes and although few artists estates would fit into the bracket that would be taxable, a very successful artist who owns a second home and a significant collection of his own high ticket art might.

What that means is that your family might have to pay tax on the work in your inventory upon your death. If you are a very big time artist you may carry life insurance to cover that for them. There have been lots of court battles surrounding the estates of the highest echelon of modern painters estates. There are strategies for easing that burden including trusts, and pre gifting a certain dollar value of your art to each child in the years before you shuffle off this mortal coil. There is a fixed amount you can give each child a year tax free, I believe it is currently about 13,000 dollars.

I know an older artist who is both very prudent and successful. He has enormous discipline and a great way to deal with this. Here's what he does. Every year he chooses his best painting, and doesn't sell it. Instead he keeps it for his children. He has a closet full of his best art stored carefully as a legacy to them. Each year he can give one painting to each of his children, up to a certain value. That way they don't end up with the dregs of his career laying about the studio, but the best collection of his work that anyone has. Great gift.

Some artists have asked the executors of their estates to burn a certain number of their paintings upon their death. Some artists leave their estates to museums. I intend to have all of my unsold paintings encased in Lucite and made into a gravestone. My epitaph will be inscribed on that, saying

STAPLETON KEARNS, HE WAS OK.

6 comments:

Simone said...

Hey Stape, somthing tells me your survivors will come up with a better epitaph, than he was OK.

mariandioguardi.com said...

"Stapleton Kearns - Wicked Nice But Don't Tell Anyone".

There is a lovely organization in Boston started by Faye Chandler, an artist called "The Art Connection" founded precisely for this problem (too much unsold art in closets). It's not for everyone but this is how it works:

An artist donates a works (or works )of art to The Art Connection. The Art Connection places the art on the wall of needy QUALIFIED non-profits where the art is seen,cared for and nicely attributed to the artist. The non profits, chosen for the art, must meet with the artists' approval (or the estate's approval). The art reaches a segment of the population who would otherwise have very little or no exposure in their daily lives to original art. I have had pieces accepted to the East Boston Health Center, which treated me when I was a child. As an artist don't get a big tax donation but you get a warm fuzzy feeling and your art is cared for and appreciated. Next best thing to selling it.

billspaintingmn said...

Stape! As I sit here lighting bottle rockets and fire crackers,I wonder,"forget what happens to the art... What happens to the artist!?
we can slip into an eternity of doom, or finally get some time to paint!
"Oh death where is thy sting?"
...Time to flip the burgers!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Simone:
I have also requested a Hefty bag as my coffin.
...................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Marian;
A 501c3 to help me give my art away.That may be useful to some people but I think I will pass. I need to sell art.
.....................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

bill;
Its summer in Minnesota and light un til 11:00 it was always hard to sleep when it did that.
...............Stape