Monday, June 8, 2009

Battle of Artist Wills

Her personal collection included works by the masters – Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Pierre August Renoir among them. The valuable pieces combined are worth about $26 million, court records show.

In 2004, Provincetown artist Mary Kass willed the paintings and sculptures to the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

She also agreed to give $225,000 out of her $40 million estate to several local charities at the time of her death.

And after she died March 12, the trustees of that will sought to have her last wishes carried out.

But so did her niece and nephew – only they produced a will from 1992 that makes no mention of the museum or the charities.

In 2004, Kass established the trust, leaving Merrill Lynch Bank and a friend, Elizabeth Villari, control of her estate upon her passing, records show. Under that arrangement, just over $3 million would go to several individuals – including $1 million each to her niece, Catherine Mason of Washington, D.C., and her nephew, Thomas Berger of Virginia. Her Provincetown properties would be deeded to Villari and another friend, Mary Ellen Henry of Provincetown, according to the agreement.

But her niece and nephew claimed even before her death that Villari had maintained undue influence over Kass, which persuaded her to change her will from a prior version in which they received more money.

The dispute is now tied up in probate court, freezing the money and the artwork until a settlement is reached.

Full Article and Source:
Artist's death sparks battle of wills


Anonymous said...

Geez, this makes me sick. One side is obviously right here and the other is greedy and wrong. Which one? Well, we don't know.

Helen said...

The attorneys are lovin' it!

Anonymous said...

Yes, you're right, Helen, no matter who's right and who's wrong, the lawyers benefit.

wisernow said...

Yes, Helen, Lawyers are lovin' this controversy = mega $$$$ in attorney fees and the estate of Mary Kass shrinks every day.

I smell rats! And, the rats smelled $$$$$.

If I had to make a wild guess here, on what is written here, I go with the niece and the nephew because I think the truth lies more on their testimony and a bit somewhere here in between.

I think Ms Kass was influenced by others Elizabeth Villari,
as she was aging; she might have started to agree that maybe she wanted to leave some of her art stuff where it will be appreciated on display.

I cannot believe that Mary Kass just woke up one day and said to herself "you know I've been thinking about banks, I think I will leave my money to Merrill Lynch Bank and let them charge me for taking care of my affairs and disburse my assets after I am gone".

I also think, that as the "influential" people were getting on base, being satisfied with the results of their influence and direction, their influence went further and further, in the end, the 1992 will was twisted to fit the agenda of .... none family members.

That's why in this 2004 revised will, the niece and nephew were left an insignificant amount (yes 1million each is insignificant compared to their 1992 share of 20 million+ each) to show that Aunt Mary Kass knew what she was doing when she cut her family's % drastically.

I wonder if there is a video tape of the 2004 revised will?

See folks? the importance of filming all document signing events!

Anonymous said...

She willed the paintings and sculptures to the National Gallery of Art in 2004? And this is 2009?

Chances are she wanted to will the art to the National Gallery.

Anonymous said...

And if the paintings go to the gallery, everybody can enjoy them.

Anonymous said...

If you want to donate something to a museum, or give an item to a friend or relative, do it today. Then no one will fight over it later.

Anonymous said...

Has this case ever been decided?

Anonymous said...

yes, the case has been closed, the family paid off the USER, the National Gallery got it's stuff, and the predator is on the loose stalking another victim again! Many that were complicit remain silent, like the R.E. agent who helped the caretaker buy and sell properties at kept the commissions. Scumbags all.