We look here at the importance of wills in securing artistic legacy and value.

There has been much reporting at the weekend of the will of David Bowie. It has been reported that the will divides £70 million among family members and makes requests regarding cremation and the scattering of his ashes.

While not hitting the headlines quite so much, but still making the top few stories on Saturday in the "entertainment and arts" section of the BBC News website, is the story Reginald Hill, the violinist on Michael Jackson's classic "Billie Jean". The news story tells of an agreement struck by Reginald Hill's widow that will mean UK royalty payments will flow post-death from Mr Hill's contribution to the track. Mrs Hill was able to have control of Mr Hill's work and the value attaching to it. (The various rights that can exist in a song featuring in our January 2016 update.)

A will as a way to secure a future artistic legacy

We mention theses stories as we have highlighted twice in our arts and culture updates the importance of using a will to secure the financial and artistic legacy of a piece or body of artistic work.

In August 2015, in an update coincidentally reflecting on Michael Jackson, we said:-

"Protecting artistic legacy and value

For artists in whatever field a will also very importantly protects your artistic legacy and the associated finances (e.g. royalties etc).Having a clear will and instructions as to the future use of your work can be critical.It will help avoid confusion, conflict and unnecessary tax.A will can make special provision for the future ownership and management of your work to best secure the artistic legacy and integrity of your creativity and in a way that you wish. Estate planning can be key where there has already been and/or will be in the future significant financial returns from the work.

Final thoughts

Michael Jackson's estate raises a number of important legal issues to be considered when instructing the preparation of a will. In particular, it highlights the importance of choosing the right guardians, the right executors and the right will structure to protect and enhance the value of the estate following death, and in turn safeguard and provide financial security for the beneficiaries' future. It also provides an opportunity to put a stamp on the future legacy of your body of work and how it will be used in the future, These legal issues are particularly critical where the individual has a high value estate with creative business interests and artistic legacies which are likely to continue post death."

This echoed comment we made in a May 2015 update inspired by the excellent advice of Ed Sheeran to write a will early (in his case he mentioned the age 27).

The key message

Artistic work has a value. Artistic work can be also be used.

To protect that value and control its use, a will is an important tool for artists to make sure they can place their stamp on how their creativity will be used and its value secured. A will allows an artist to decide who controls their work, who benefits from its value and the basis upon which it is controlled and enjoyed.


Arts and culture legal issues cover a wide range of legal topics and as Scotland's largest law firm we are here and able to help artists,organisations, families and others protect and secure artistic and creative endeavours.

We feature in the picture accompanying this blog the Finnieston (or Stobcross) Crane, a location for art to be suspended from with, in the background, the Hydro, Glasgow's (more recently added) major venue for music and much more.