An artist’s estate is as individual as the deceased personality

Dr. Mario Nöll in the house of Lambert Maria Wintersberger

Interview with Dr. Mario Nöll, Estate Administrator of Lambert Maria Wintersberger

  • Good day Dr. Nöll, it’s great that we have time to talk about a current hot topic: highly complex estates. What is the crucial task of an estate administrator?

The estate administration is a special legal institution, which usually only applies to complex assets with special requirement and thus corresponding liability potential. The administrator of the estate generally has the task of securing the estate and managing it as economically as possible. According to its legal definition, the estate administration is similar to the estate insolvency proceedings – a liquidation procedure “for the satisfaction of the estate’s creditors”. Unlike the estate insolvency procedure, the estate administration is only superficially concerned with the satisfaction of liabilities. Actually, it is about managing the estate as best as possible in the interests of the heirs, freeing it of all imaginable liabilities and liability risks, in order to ultimately be able to pay the heirs the greatest possible amount of adjusted assets. For heirs of complex assets, the estate administration is doubly interesting. For one, they do not have to spend their own time and money on the sometimes extremely time-consuming and sometimes nerve-wracking estate processing. At the same time, they benefit directly from the experience and know-how of a professional specialist.

  • That sounds pretty complicated. How did you personally come to this specialization?

After completing law school, I worked for over three years in a chair for inheritance law and insolvency law. During this time I did my doctorate in these two fields of law. As a result, I worked for several well-known insolvency law firms, as I intended to become a bankruptcy trustee. In the course of time, I discovered that the management of sophisticated (entrepreneurial) estates is at least as challenging and varied as mid-sized corporate insolvencies, but unlike the latter, there are virtually no specialists for the former in Germany.

  • Are there any speciality when it is an art estate?

One has to differentiate between estates, in which – in addition to many other valuables – there is also an art collection and an artist estate, which is essentially composed of works by the deceased artist.

In the former case, art in principle does not differ from other valuables. The emphasis here is on security, evaluation and recovery, for which, however, specialized service providers, e.g. Art experts or even auction houses like e.artis gives.

Artist allowances such as this one are indeed something special and present the relatives with enormous challenges. The focus here is on the development of long-term viable business strategies, which on the one hand should meet the ideological interest in the preservation of the artistic heritage for posterity, but on the other hand must also make economic sense. That is sometimes a balancing act.

  • Currently, many estates are inherited from collectors and artists. What is your most important advice for heirs?

Artist estates are as individual as the deceased personalities themselves. There are no package recipes. As an artistic layman you should always consult expert advice, especially in valuation questions, the more the better. One should also be aware that the art market is one of the most unregulated markets in the world and that there are many shady charachters.

Dr. Mario Nöll im Gespräch mit Konstanze Wolter
Dr. Mario Nöll im Gespräch mit Konstanze Wolter

Lambert Maria Wintersberger was a truly obsessed. We have found in his artist’s studio, a former station in Alsace, approximately 5,000 works, mainly paintings and sculptures, but also wall and floor mosaics, in the garden stone formations a la Stonehenge in miniature and many like that. The entire property, every single room, i.e, about 600 square meters of living and working space on several floors and various outbuildings are replete with works of art. When you enter the room for the first time, it almost kills you – simply very impressive. After the death of his wife in 2005, the artist evidently lived in a very withdrawn state, scarcely letting any human being in and painting and creating until the end of each free minute.

  • There is still one or more other obsessed artists in the country … Is the preservation and processing of an artist’s life’s work something that the artist can prepare during his lifetime?

Theoretically yes, in practice, artists are often overstrained, or they simply set other priorities. When Lambert Maria Wintersberger, in the last years of his life he obviously suffered from severe depression, although it did not prevent him from painting.

  • What advice do you give artists who want to regulate their heritage?

Of course, this depends heavily on the personal and economic conditions as well as the nature and extent of the life’s work and not least on the family circumstances of each artist. In certain cases, it may be useful to bring the works into a family foundation or even a charitable foundation at an early stage. Of course, you can also arrange something similar in a testamentary manner and apply the construction and incorporation of the art in a foundation to an executor.

  • It sounds as if there is much to consider, both as an artist and as the heir of an artist’s oeuvre. Good to know that you can provide individual support with experience and passion. Thank you for the interview Dr Nöll.

More about the work of Dr. Mario Nöll can be found on his website:

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