LEGAL ISSUES (cont.)
When you are giving your work to another person or an institution, you must also consider the copyright. The copyright law provides protection to "original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other intellectual works, whether published or unpublished.. The copyright is a separate entity from the work itself and, unless it is clearly transferred, it is generally owned by you, even if you sell or give away the work. The copyright owner has the right to reproduce the work, make similar works, distribute copies of the work and perform the work publicly. For works created after January 1, 1978, the term of the copyright is the life of the artist plus 50 years.
Your will should clearly dispose of your copyrights. Consider whether you want the copyright in your work to be bequeathed to the people or institutions to which you give your work, or elsewhere. Not defining who is to own the copyright to your work can cause both tax and legal problems for your heirs.
Tax laws are complicated and vary from state to state. For the most part, estate taxes will be a major planning consideration for commercially successful artists. These artists might encourage their private attorneys to review the tax issues presented in the full Estate Project report, available from the Alliance for the Arts. Generally, your estate will be subject to Federal estate taxes if the net value of the estate exceeds $600,000. In addition, depending on where you live, your estate may be subject to state taxes. In New York, for example, your estate will be subject to state estate taxes if it exceeds approximately $115,00, not counting the value of your home up to $250,000.