Battle of Wills
Knowing for some time that I *should* have a Will in place I’ve managed to successfully put off the task year after year.
In theory it seems like such a simple thing; leaving written instructions so that those left holding on to all your loose ends don’t lose their minds trying to second guess what your final wishes might have been. Responsible, right?
But, oh so many questions! Uncomfortable and hard-to-answer questions that force you to confront your mortality face-to-face. Preparing Wills, Representational Agreements, and Power of Attorneys are documents that many of us avoid because the questions are so damn mentally difficult.
Having made the choice to not have children, I have zero dependents that I can entrust to make my financial decisions when I’m no longer of sound mind and body (or bequeath all my assets to and make THEM deal with it ;-)). Trying to decide which of my friends will be suitably up for the task (ie: still alive) is an almost impossibly depressing chore (NB: this is why you need to make friends with people younger than yourself).
Additionally, as someone who has a nonstop practice of making tangible cultural objects, I have an further concern: Artist Estate Planning.
Over the years I’ve manufactured a lot of “personal effects” (aka: artwork). At the risk of having all of these personal effects tossed into a Bagster (Dumpster In a Bag TM) and deposited at the nearest landfill, I’ve been giving some serious thought lately as to what’s going to happen to All The Things.
What Happens to My Life’s Work When I Die?
My ultimate wish would be to have the artwork split among several museum collections. This would be brilliant. My work would be stored and cared for properly and, occasionally, see the light of day in future exhibitions.
Alas, this is a dream rather than a fact.
So…what will happen to all of the drawings, paintings, sculptures, research, etc. if no institution cares to accept the gift of my inventory? Ruminating on this concern has conjured up several scenarios, ranging from the unthinkable to the ridiculous.
Keeping in mind that the number one rule in brainstorming is don’t limit yourself, here are my top five:
Buy a sizable crypt and, like the Egyptians, bury all of my artwork, equipment, and remaining materials alongside my mummified body. Acquiring a burial plot for this plan might get pricey. Good thing I only produce about twelve pieces a year and work small. Bonus: my textile work compacts down surprisingly well.
Burn it all. Better yet, burn it all with me. On a raft. Floating out towards the sunset on my way to Valhalla. Instead of the attending witnesses adding a stick of wood to the fire, they can each toss on a piece of my artwork before the pyre gets pushed off with the receding tide. As I sail off into the distance, they can toast me from the open bar that will have been purchased from one third of my wealth is as Nordic custom (sadly, this dramatic Hollywood interpretation of a Norse funeral isn’t physically viable – apparently the temperatures needed to cremate aren’t possible to obtain on a floating boat. I may have to settle for a traditional Norse mound burial). Don’t worry, either way, no one will be sacrificed and there will still be an open bar.
Inexplicably leave all of my artwork, equipment, etc., to a young, up and coming artist who doesn’t even know who I am. Delivery of the news of the bequeathment and the artwork to be accompanied by a documentary film maker who will capture the resulting adventures, submit her film to Cannes, and win a Palme d’Or.
Donate my work to an animation company. With the caveat that slight alterations are permissible in order for the work to be “brought to life”. (Unfortunately, Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs) is as old as I am. I’m keeping my eye out for a young, stop-motion guru equivalent. Let me know if you have any leads). I will require my name to be included in the credits of any productions.
Leave all artwork in my personal collection (anything that hasn’t sold or been accepted into a collection) to an upcycling institution such as Materials for the Arts. MFTA collects and redistributes all sorts of things, from bin upon bin of commercial jewelry findings, furniture, fabric, paint, building supplies, and, well, basically anything that they can rescue from going into the landfill. This solution appeals to me because much of what I create uses recycled, found, donated materials and objects. How awesome would it be to have elements of my pieces pop up in future artists’ work?
Of course, all of this hypothetical hedging could be avoided if I just got myself represented by an A-1 gallery that would eventually siphon me into the museum market. That shouldn’t be too hard [drops to floor, rolls around laughing hysterically].
How about you? Have you made a game plan for your assets and effects? If you’re an artist, what does your estate plan look like?