The purpose of a will is to declare the intended succession of ownership of one’s property. If questions exist over whether one actually owns a certain property, that issue must be resolved prior to the asset being included in an estate’s administration proceedings. The question of ownership may often be resolved by a brief review of one’s property records (which is why people are encouraged to maintain certificates of ownership for their more valuable properties). Yet if such records do not exist (and if a testator is no longer alive to consult with), then officials may be left to rely upon whose claim over the property appears to be the most legitimate.
Such was the case of a painting of the late television icon Farrah Fawcett. The actress posed for a painting for the renowned artist Andy Warhol in 1980. The session reportedly produced two paintings. When Fawcett died in 2009, her will stipulated that her artwork should go to the University of Texas. One painting was sent to the school, which was reportedly unaware of the existence of the other. It recently learned that the second painting was in the hands of Fawcett’s longtime partner Ryan O’Neal. The university tried to claim the painting as per the terms of Fawcett’s will, yet O’Neal claimed that he was at the session with Fawcett when the painting was made, and that Warhol gave the second painting to him. With neither Warhol or Fawcett being alive to refute the claim, the court upheld O’Neal’s claim of ownership.
Cases such as this may serve to confirm just how complex estate administration cases can be. Those needing assistance in managing such a case may find it in the form of an experienced attorney.