Case study: an artist and her will
Just say you’re:
An independent creative. You make infographs for a few different companies. You’re really passionate about what you make. It’s all you do and you’re carving out an okay living from it. You have a few regular clients now and can work from wherever, do stuff with your kids and friends, and you feel confident about running things your way.
Plus your good work is starting to get recognised.
And you have an ex-husband and a few children – let’s say two. Your ex-husband has a new wife, you have a new partner and he has one child.
So your personal life is not straightforward.
Thing is, you own some of your work and you sell some of it. And you’re halfway through writing a guide to creating infographs, which you predict will sell reasonably well.
“ …your intellectual capital is accumulating. It may not ever be worth a fortune, but you never know. ”
Point is, your intellectual capital is accumulating. It may not ever be worth a fortune, but you never know.
In any case, your designs are a small testimony to the fact you existed, and you’d like your kids and partner to care take of them when you die.
This is a real case study.
This was the situation of a client I recently worked with. For the sake of simplicity, let’s name her Genevieve.
Genevieve was ‘sorting out her sh**’ after her divorce and decided to get her legacy plans in place. She’d done some research and asked us to create her Will, POA and Health Directive.
“Just a simple Will is all I need,” she wrote in her email, “My financial structures aren’t that complex.”
I hear this a lot. You’d be surprised at the gazillionaires who tell me they have basic life affairs.
Back to Genevieve.
Here was a woman who was serious about running her own creative stuff. She’d spent a fair bit of her own money on buying the equipment and software she needed, and regularly used a bookkeeper and accountant for all her financials.
It came to light she also jointly owned a house with her de facto and her infograph book was being co-authored by an established self-development author, so it was sure to do okay – and sustainably.
In fact, she had all sorts of issues that made her so not a candidate for a simple Will.
So it surprised me that she took other aspects of her business architecture seriously, but had never used legal, branding and legacy professionals.
Is Genevieve you?
Have a think about each of Genevieve’s problems to check if they’re relevant to your situation:
Like a lot of people, Genevieve wasn’t aware of how her property ownership with her partner was structured.
More importantly, nor was she aware that how you own real property changes who gets your share when you die. Obviously, she wants her kids to get at least some share of her property. But if she owns her house as a joint tenant, her share automatically goes to her de facto partner – regardless of what’s in her Will.
Genevieve had registered a business name, but she still needed trademarks for her for book series to make sure no one else could infringe on the use of her brand.
Infringements are a pretty messy business for any creative person. For instance, if someone made inferior versions of her infographs and published them, it could damage her reputation. And reputation matters to clients.
By having an international trademark in place, Genevieve can swiftly deal with anyone encroaching on her business turf.
Genevieve also had assets in her personal name. Remember: assets in personal names are open you being attacked and personally sued.
For Genevieve, a simple Will could lead to disastrous outcomes for her not-so-simple blended family.
By using a Will Trust, she was able to appoint a trustee who would follow her specific instructions for how she wanted her assets and property (including the rights to her intellectual property) distributed after she’s gone.
As an artist and creator, Genevieve can set up licensing deals for her work, which she wasn’t doing. I suggested for instance, she license a template for her infographs that she can provide other creators through a specific licensing contract. Through these templates, her business would become scaleable and not dependent on her ability to keep working on projects for income.
There’s no need to give over all the rights to your creative works so that big business can make money from your skills and work.
If you’re working as a contractor, plus doing your own projects on the side, either alone or with collaborators, having contracts and structures in place to protect what you own is important.
Make sure your Will, asset structures and licensing and publishing agreements protect your right to maintain ownership of what you make.