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    Category Archives: Art

    Art Therapy for Alzheimer’s Patients

    “Art offers [patients with dementia] a way of communication that doesn’t rely on their verbal skills and allows them to contribute in a way that they don’t often get to do,” said Nancy Lee Hendley, dementia care trainer for the New York City chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

    Caring for an elderly loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s is a difficult thing, often both for the caregiver and the patient. This is especially true when it comes to effective communication. Enter “art therapy.”

    According to a recent article in The New York Times (The New Old Age Blog) titled "Art Therapy For Alzheimer's Patients," art helps to comfort and often even invigorate a patient by giving them “something” with which to associate that does not require verbal interaction. As a result, various museums have begun programs with care professionals to provide guided tours for patients. These tours through exhibits offer patients the opportunity to associate with and discuss the art on display.

    According to the article, the experience also has proven to be a pleasurable activity for the caregivers, even if neither the caregiver nor the patient was an art-buff beforehand.

    So, if you have a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or dementia, then you might check with your local art museum and inquire about an art therapy program. Who knows, perhaps your suggestion just might initiate a similar program in your hometown.

    Reference: The New York Times – The New Old Age Blog (April 13, 2012) “Reconnecting Through Art

    Art: Trash or Treasure?

    So, how should families fortunate enough to have valuable collections decide what to do with their art or other objects? Here are some options.

    As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” So it is with art.

    For some people, the most valuable art pieces are the classics that have survived a few centuries. Other people prefer styles that may involve a lot of dribbled paint and found objects. Of course there are people who really appreciate velvet Elvis paintings and those featuring card playing canines. In the end, to each his own.

    The IRS, on the other hand, will assign a market value for taxation purposes. So, how do collectors and their estate planning attorneys make proper plans for the transfer of such treasures (or trash)?

    Recently, estate planning issues regarding art have received media attention (to include the strange case of Ileana Sonnabend) as highlighted in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal appropriately titled The Art of Passing Along Art.

    As the article notes, the major problem with making an estate plan to transfer art is the nature of “art” itself. For example, will your heirs appreciate your taste in art and how will the IRS value your art? In a worst case scenario, the heirs do not like the art, but the IRS does (for valuation purposes) and levies estate taxes on the value assessed.

    Ultimately, you need to ask yourself why you are giving the art collection in the first place. Are you giving to an art-lover or in lieu of liquid assets? Are you actually giving to the beneficiaries or are you simply trying to find safe homes for the pieces?

    Whatever your wishes, there are estate planning solutions. However, you need to prioritize your own goals and wishes for your loved ones, as well as for your art treasures.

    Reference: The Wall Street Journal (March 2, 2012) “The Art of Passing Along Art

    When Modern Art Meets the IRS

    Sometimes, I’ve noticed, the IRS itself gets a bit too creative. Exhibit A is its treatment of the estate of legendary modern art dealer Ileana Sonnabend who died in 2007, at the age of 92.

    When it comes to the IRS and taxes, the message is more often than not that you really can’t have your cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, this also means that heirs oftentimes end up between a rock and a hard place. For an extreme lesson, consider the case of Ileana Sonnabend.

    What do you do when something is both so valuable as to trigger taxation and yet also so valuable – and illegal – that it is without value on the market? Some readers might have run across this story last month, but it gets coverage over in this recent article in Forbes.

    Sonnabend was a bit of an art buff, to put it lightly, and her collection of modern art requires a doctorate in modern art history to fully articulate, with such names as Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Cy Twombly rounding out the gallery walls. At her death, all of these works passed to her heirs and, to pay for the estate taxes thusly triggered, her heirs had to sell those very pieces.

    It’s a sad story, if you just stop there. However, then you miss the most unique of artwork (and, at the very mention of “most unique,” it’s worth noting that some of these artists considered toothpaste a means of expression), a piece known as “canyon” by Robert Rauschenberg.

    “Canyon” is really a mixed media piece incorporating a stuffed bald eagle, putting the production and sale of same on the darker side of the law as far as the Bald Eagle Act of 1940 is concerned. Accordingly, “Canyon” is not only art, but it’s illegal art. Nevertheless, it squeaks by on a technicality: it predates the Bald Eagle Act.

    As such it is beyond value, literally, because it is restricted from the market. But that doesn’t put it beyond the interest and reach of the IRS. Apparently, the IRS incorporated the piece as part of the taxable estate, even though it was beyond selling by U.S. law, it could still be sold internationally (and on black markets.)

    That’s a strange place for a strange piece of art, to be sure, but it does highlight the fact that art, as both real property and expensive property, requires more than a little planning. Sonnabend herself didn’t take advantage of any estate planning, forcing her heirs to sell the very art for which the estate tax was assessed.

    Again, to learn more about (and understand) the art you’ll need a doctorate degree, but to learn more about Sonnabend and her legacy you should consult the original article. On a more personal note, to make proper estate planning arrangements for your own art and the rest of your estate engage competent counsel to help you take advantage of available techniques that can save your own unique collection and the family you hope to inherit it.

    Reference: Forbes (February 23, 2012) “Even Rich Heirs Deserve A Fair Shake From The IRS

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