By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
July 18, 2019
Gene Elder’s Departing Message to Other Artists: Write a Will
There are many people who fear the topic of passing on from this life, and avoid conversations about it like the plague.
This was not the case with Gene Elder.
Gene Elder was an eccentric San-Antonio based artist. He wore many hats over his lifetime and created a handful of kooky, sweet, and political art projects. As he battled colon cancer in the last years of his life, he began work on one last project: his last will and testament.
Elder created a “holistic will” in the style of the Fluxus experimental art movement from the 1960s and 1970s. In his will, he splits his assets between two different art school boards, with the intention for them to carry on his legacy. He also established the MUD Underground Trust, which would be used to encourage the creation of political art in San Antonio.
Elder admitted that he was one of the few artists he knew that actually sat down and wrote a will. He wrote to a reporter for the San Antonio Current, saying, “All the artists in this community, at whom I am aiming this article, aren’t thinking about writing a will. [They’ve] never thought about writing a will [and] don’t know how to go about writing a will, because they can’t afford a lawyer. And they don’t understand that they can write their wishes down, at least, on a piece of paper.”
Well, it’s not exactly that simple in the state of Florida, but writing a will may not be as complicated as you might think. Every state has a different process for legitimizing a last will and testament. In Florida, you will need to have witnesses, sign the will, and have it notarized before it can be used to prevent probate in Florida.
Don’t let the process of creating and signing a will turn you off.
In his email, Elder also addressed the dangers of not writing a will: “So I, being a responsible person, wanted to leave a will, because if you don’t have a will, the state, when it goes through probate, just gets everything, and it makes it complicated for anybody to carry out anything.” (that’s not true unless no family are living or come forward before the department of financial services ultimately does keep it)..
Leaving your family, friends, and community without a will make things “a mess.” If you’re an artist, your work and legacy can easily get tangled up in this mess. Elder shared that he traded a piece of artwork to get his will settled. And when he passed away at the age of 69, he and the people in his community knew that his legacy as a San Antonio staple would live on, thanks to his will and the trust he set up.
We think Gene Elder had a lot of kooky ideas, but we are definitely on board with sharing his thoughts about wills and how to prepare your legacy as an artist moving on. If you want to avoid probate and determine the course of your legacy after you pass away, it’s time to reach out to an estate planning attorney and learn more about your options.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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