It is not uncommon in Lee County, Florida to hear about people contesting wills and getting into family fights or filing lawsuits over personal property that was once owned by the deceased. In order to avoid this, those who are going through the estate planning process should always document in writing when they give something that is either sentimentally or monetarily valuable. If this transfer is to be done after the person dies, it should be clearly outlined in his or her will. This can ensure that the person who was intended to get the item actually gets it.
Had this been done in Farrah Fawcett’s will, years of probate litigation could have most likely been avoided. Fawcett left a living trust that specified that all her artwork be given to the University of Texas. The University sued Fawcett’s longtime partner, Ryan O’Neal, over an Andy Warhol painting of Fawcett, saying that O’Neal took the artwork out of Fawcett’s home. The lawsuit came even as the University had already been given one copy of the famous painting.
O’Neal said in court that because he negotiated the deal to have the painting done, Warhol himself gave him the second copy. Several witnesses, including Fawcett’s friends and a caregiver, supported O’Neal’s story, saying that the second copy belonged to him. The jury agreed and ruled that the painting belonged to O’Neal.
O’Neal was reportedly overjoyed at the decision. He plans to keep the artwork in the family and says that he will bequeath it to his and Fawcett’s son.
Source: Financial Planning, “Warhol Painting Mess: Estate Planning Takeaways,” Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Jan. 14, 2014