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The Bad Planning That Leaves So Many Artists’ Estates Tangled in Lawsuits

The moral, to Celia Bertoia, is for artists to put their intentions in writing so that there will be no disputes about what they wanted. That works sometimes, not all the time. Saul Ostrow, a critic and partner in the newly created company, Art Legacy Planning, which provides estate management services to artists and art collectors, noted that one artist (whom he could not name) wrote in his will that paintings from his estate would be gifted to the Met, MoMA and the Whitney. “Each of these museums had one drawing by the artist in their collections, and he thought that since they each had a drawing they would want his paintings, too,” he said. The artist was wrong. “The museums didn’t want the paintings, and the executors of the estate had to go to court to break the will” in order that something else could be done with these artworks.

 
 
 
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Inheriting a Legacy

Maintaining the legacy of major artists has become big business, and the task has become increasingly professionalized. Just a few years ago, the concept of “artistic legacy consulting” was essentially unheard of, but now, companies are popping up to assist with what can be a particularly complex and specific set of legal and fiscal circumstances. The New York–based firm Art Legacy Planning, for instance, employs a combination of art advisers, art historians, art lawyers, and financial planners to help heirs mount shows, create comprehensive catalogues raisonnés, and pay the lowest possible taxes.

 
 
 
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Sotheby’s Continues to Nab Artist Estates, Gaining Representation of the Sculptor Robert Graham

Art Agency Partners isn’t the only one to spot this opportunity. Last month, a new company called Art Legacy Planning launched a similar service, although it targets smaller artists and estates that might not yet be able to afford Art Agency Partners or be of interest to a major gallery.

 
 
 
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New estate planning consultancy for artists and collectors

ALP’s mission is to ensure that the work of all artists is protected, so it is dealt with in an appropriate manner as to secure the legacy of artists and collectors alike. The company aims to establish how the artists and collectors’ best interests are to be represented. ALP offers consultancy and planning that balances the creative wishes of the artist or collector, financial decisions of the estate, as well as realistic options for its management by heirs. 

 
 
 
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With a Focus on the Estates and Legacies of Artists, a New Advisory Opens for Business

ALP aims to address everything from big-picture issues like promoting an artist’s legacy, to technical matters such as photographing and cataloguing work, to tax matters having to do with inheriting a sizable body of art. “The more we investigated, the more we found that there was no company or service” that addresses all of these issues, Dinaburg said in a phone interview.