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Art collector's death leads to estate administration nightmares

Many families in Florida, and throughout the country, can find themselves having difficulties affording funeral and burial costs associated with laying a loved one to rest. In these types of instances, funds are often taken from savings accounts and other resources like life insurance policies to cover burial arrangements. And while this type of predicament is not entirely uncommon, an interesting problem can arise when necessary funds are locked in assets that cannot simply be cashed out.

A well-known member of the art world is survived by an estate planning nightmare involving his family, friends and one court-appointed executor. One of the artist's wills, which dates back to 2011, apparently outlines how he wished his valuables to be distributed and also identifies his son as the executor. However, the legitimacy of this will has yet to be determined in court. Until then, the man's son has no authority over his father's considerable assets.

It seems that a large part of the issue regarding the man's estate revolves around the son. Some of those close to the elderly artist and collector were allegedly suspicious of the son's intentions regarding his father's affairs. Later, a state Supreme Court appointed a guardian for the ailing man instead of assigning the responsibility to the son.

Now the man's once guardian is the executor of his estate, which has dwindled in recent years as it was used to cover his medical and living expenses. Unfortunately, it seems that the man's extensive art collection accounts for the majority of his estate, and as such cannot currently be used to cover his expenses.

Proper legal counsel and representation could have anticipated and resolved some of the issues now faced by those closest to the beloved artist.

Source: New York Times, "Art Worth Millions, Yet No Cash for Burial," Patricia Cohen, Peter Lattman, March 25, 2013

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