The Last Will and Testament of Robert Indiana

-by Avery Day, Partner

It is not often that matter of Maine probate law ends up making national news.  One Maine estate, however, has captured the attention of many, including members of the art world.  On May 19, 2018, Robert Indiana, famous artist and resident of Vinalhaven, Maine, died at his home.  The disposition of his estate will likely play out for a while and will certainly be an intriguing story.

As someone from Vinalhaven who had occasional glimpses of the artist while growing up, I have been following the story with interest.  And as someone with an interest in Maine probate law, I thought that others might be curious in seeing for themselves what The Last Will and Testament of Robert Indiana says.

This four-page will’s most remarkable feature might be its lack of remarkable features.  While this document directs the distribution of assets estimated to exceed $25 million, Robert Indiana’s will is very similar to those of most Mainers with more modest estates.

Robert Indiana’s will begins by revoking former wills and codicils and then directing that all debts of the decedent be paid.  This is standard language included in nearly all Maine wills.  The Third Article references a provision of the Maine Probate Code that allows for the distribution of tangible personal property through a list or a letter prepared by the decedent.  This is a tool most often employed to allow people to make and re-make decisions regarding who is going to get the family ring, gun collection, or other prized possessions without having to go through the time and expense of re-writing and re-signing a will or codicil every time a change is made.

The Fifth Article of Robert Indiana’s will is called the “residuary clause.”  It can act as the catch-all, safety net for distributing anything that might have been missed in other parts of the will.  This clause can also act as the primary vehicle for conveying someone’s estate in a simple will (e.g., I give the “rest, residue, and remainder” to my wife, or I give the “rest, residue, and remainder” to my children in equal share).  In Robert Indiana’s will, this clause acts more as a catch-all.

A provision like the Sixth Article of Robert Indiana’s will should be found in every Maine will.  This Article appoints a Personal Representative and an alternative Personal Representative to do the work of administering the estate.

Robert Indiana’s will does have some language not found in most standard wills, which reflects the life that Robert Indiana has led. The Fourth Article of this will provides for the creation of a non-profit organization that will receive the artist’s collection and real estate in order to establish an art museum.  And of course, each page of this will prominently bears the signature of a famous artist – something most of us cannot boast.

If you would like help in creating an unremarkable, but functional, will and estate plan, please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss.

Contact Stevens & Day, LLP

82 Winthrop St.,
Augusta, ME 04330

207-430-3288

207-624-0399

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