Numerous organizations around the country have established programs that address the legal needs of artists. Most offer hotlines or walk-in services in all areas of estate planning. As discussed more fully in the following pages, estate planning involves not only making a will, but other documents which are operative and crucial during the life of the artist, including trusts, powers-of-attorney, health care proxies, living wills and lifetime gift instruments.
With support from the Estate Project, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA), a nonprofit legal service organization, has established a model in New York, the Artist Legacy Project, a program to provide free specialized estate planning services to artists in all creative fields who meet VLA's financial guidelines. Clients of the Artist Legacy Project consult with VLA staff attorney and are either handled in-house or are referred to one of the many VLA volunteer attorneys with an expertise in both estate planning and art-related legal issues.
VLA also operates the Art Law Line, a legal hotline for artists (regardless of financial eligibility) and arts organizations with art-related legal questions, including questions about estate planning and administration. Callers to the Art Law Line receive answers to legal questions, referrals to other legal service providers across the country and information about VLA publications, educational programs and legal services. Artists seeking to use the services of the Artist Legacy Project should call the Art Law Line to make an appointment.
Artists with HIV/AIDS seeking legal assistance for matters not related to estate planning or an issue or legal matter unrelated to their work as an artist are advised to seek information and help from a general AIDS service provider such as Gay Men's Health Crisis, or AIDS Project Los Angeles. These organizations may also be able to refer you to local AIDS service providers across the country.
Begin early to think about the many aspects of estate planning and the complex issues involved in creating a plan which will effectively safeguard your legacy. After you have reviewed the issues and guidelines in the next section, you will be able to begin to decide your priorities and where next to turn for help.