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The devil is in the details in battle over artist's trust, p. 2

We are continuing the discussion from our last post about litigation involving artist Robert Rauschenberg's foundation. Rauschenberg -- who was, coincidentally, born in Texas -- was enormously influential in the art scene, especially during the '50s and '60s. He was also enormously successful: When he died in 2008, he left behind an estate worth an estimated $600 million.

Rauschenberg's estate plan included a pour-over will. All of his assets went into a trust, and the primary beneficiary of the trust was the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. The artist established the foundation in 1990 as a way to continue his philanthropic activities and to help emerging artists.

The trust was still a trust, though, and, so, needed trustees. Rauschenberg appointed three of his friends to serve. He did not, however, include any direction on how those trustees would be compensated. Now the trustees are asking for $60 million for their work.

The trustees claim that, under their stewardship, the trust's assets have greatly increased in value. Court documents filed in 2012 estimated its worth at more than $2 billion. Much of the appreciation is attributed to the increased value of Rauschenberg's artworks. The trustees say they have conscientiously managed the collection to bring the artist's work and vision to new audiences. That management, the trustees' execution of their careful plan, has earned them such an impressive fee.

Artists, musicians, actors -- one of the hardest issues a celebrity's estate has to grapple with is managing the person's legacy. It's a difficult task because not every celebrity owns or controls his or her photographs, music, paintings -- images of the person and works by the person make up that legacy, so copyrights come into play.

The trustees say their management of Rauschenberg's art has included resolving difficult copyright issues. They say, too, that they have had to address complicated tax issues with both the state and the Internal Revenue Service.

But does all of that work out to a fair fee of $60 million? Not to the foundation.

We'll finish this up in our next post.

Source: Chron, "Late artist's trustees seeking $60 million in fees," Tamara Lush, Jan. 7, 2014

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