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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Legal dispute over Farrah Fawcett painting decided, for now

Some of our Minnesota readers may remember that this blog reported on the dispute between a university and an actor over a renowned Andy Warhol portrait of the famous actress Farrah Fawcett. Now, a jury has decided that the actor can keep the portrait of Fawcett as his own.

Fawcett was the long-time companion of the actor, but they had a bumpy relationship. While the actor and several witnesses insisted that the portrait was his to keep, other people claimed that Fawcett had intended the portrait to remain hers and had only loaned it to her companion for display. Fawcett died in 2009 and her will provided that her entire art collection was to be turned over to the University of Texas.

The University already has one Warhol portrait of Fawcett, but discovered that the actor had retained the other. The University sought its return; however, at the end of the day, the jury found that the testimony of the actor and his witnesses was credible and that Fawcett had therefore given the painting to the actor prior to her death.

The decision of the jury was not unanimous, but of the 12 people on the panel, nine voted that the actor had ownership over the painting. This majority was all that was required in this case. The University is evaluating whether or not to appeal.

Although many probate disputes are decided by a judge instead of a jury, some, such as the one in this case, wind up in the hands of several jurors. In all probate disputes, however, having an attorney experienced in probate litigation can prove to be of invaluable assistance to a person trying to get, or keep, what rightfully belongs to him or her.

Source: CNN, "Ryan O'Neal can keep Farrah Fawcett portrait, jury says," Ann O'Neill, Dec. 20, 2013

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