When the artist Robert Indiana died in 2018, his wish was for his old home in Maine to be converted to a museum so that his artistic vision would continue to inspire future generations. Sadly, lawsuits have cost his estate millions—and delayed execution of his intentions.
Where’s The Love?
Even if you think you don’t know anything about the artist Robert Indiana, you probably do. As Artnet reminds us:
Indiana is best known for his iconic LOVE sculpture, with a tipped “O” that became one of the most reproduced works of art in the modern era….But LOVE became something of a double-edged sword for the artist. Despite the fact that the image made him world-famous and was reproduced on 330 million postage stamps, it was also reconfigured in countless other forms that he never authorized—or profited from.
When Robert Indiana, died in 2018, the Morgan Art Foundation, a for-profit company that owns the reproduction rights to LOVE, accused his caretaker and publishing associates of isolating the artist in his old age, while making deals involving unauthorized versions of his work. The New York Times summed up recently:
After three years of courtroom hostilities, the estate of the artist Robert Indiana and the artist’s former business partner said …that they had agreed to settle the legal disputes that cost the estate millions of dollars and clouded the market….The legal back-and-forth drained assets that would otherwise have gone to a project designated by the artist in his will, an endeavor to convert his old home on the remote island of Vinalhaven, more than an hour’s ferry ride off the Maine coast, into a museum to memorialize his artistic legacy.
Remember: Wills, Executors and Bonds
Though it is difficult to know exactly what led to the tangle of events surrounding Robert Indiana’s intentions and estate, his story reminds us of the importance of having a will and periodically updating the associated documents. In doing so, we will also name an executor, sometimes termed a personal representative, and ensure that our trusted designee is clear on our intentions and sufficiently armed with the documents and information needed to carry them out. Although often waived by families during the process of creating the will, executor bonds can inspire the confidence of everyone involved. Sometimes they are even required during the probate process.
An executor bond is a type of fiduciary bond: it guarantees the beneficiaries that the estate will be administered in accordance with state law. It is quick and easy to obtain an executor bond—and other fiduciary bonds, such as personal representative bonds, at Colonial Surety Company. Just get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond, anytime, from anywhere.
Rest in Peace?
Artnet reports that the affairs of Robert Indiana are still tangled in court. Though one case has been settled, still pending is a case brought by Maine’s attorney general, “who claims the estate paid excessive legal fees during litigation. That lawsuit contends $3.7 million paid to four law firms and about $400,000 collected by the estate’s personal representative were excessive.” Litigation between the Morgan Art Foundation and publisher’s of Indiana’s work is also still pending. Though most of us have more modest estates than a famous artist, it’s still equally painful, proportionately, to think about our beneficiaries losing out on any of the hard earned assets we had hoped to pass on to them, right? Depending on your circumstances, you may find it helpful to establish a trust.
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