Wills for Artists

The commercial consequences of making a living as a professional artist in any creative field extend beyond our life

As an artist, why do I need a Will?

A Will enables you to:-

  • direct your property to your intended beneficiaries without relying upon the intestacy laws;
  • provide directions regarding the management of your creative legacy.

‘Property’ includes ‘copyright’. What is copyright?

Copyright is a bundle of rights which attach to any creative work. Put most simply, it is the right to ‘exploit’ that creative work – by selling, licensing, copying, printing, performing, or publishing it. The copyright will always initially reside in the creator of a creative work, and will continue to be owned by their estate after they die.

Copyright can be transferred and/or sold at any time, just like any other asset.

Tip #1 – Copyright is intangible

Copyright is intangible – which means that it exists separately from the physical representation of the work which has been created. If I wrote a novel on a piece of paper, ownership of that piece of paper is not equal to ownership of the copyright of the creative work. The importance of this is that artists must be careful not to accidentally gift copyright to an unintended beneficiary. For example, if I, as an author, gave all my personal papers to my wife, she would probably be receiving both the physical papers and the copyright in any original works written on those papers. On the other hand, I could give my personal belongings to my wife, but I could direct that the copyright in any original works is to be managed by her for the benefit equally of her and my children (for example).

Tip #2 – The correct person to be your executor

Different people have different skill sets. A person capable of making commercial decisions may not have the empathy and sensitivity to manage your creative legacy in a manner consistent with your wishes. Choosing two or more people may help to create a dynamic between them which would lead to your intended outcomes.

Tip #3 – Consider a literary executor

Executors can be assigned to different tasks. It is common for a ‘literary executor’ to be appointed for copyright matters, and that person can be provided with specific instructions as to how the copyright and the creative legacy should be managed.

To discuss your wishes and to make a will, please contact Trent McGregor or Vesna Pocuca at Robertson Hyetts on 03 5434 6666 or 03 5472 1588.