A beneficiary of a famous Illinois woman's estate is facing legal charges after he allegedly sold negatives of the woman's high-value street photographs without court approval. The man is reportedly taking a stand against the public entity that is overseeing the estate litigation, saying that a government entity should not be in charge of her stunning collection of photographs. This is just the latest legal speed bump to be hit by the woman's estate representatives after she reportedly died nearly penniless in 2009.
Official reports show that the defendant sold off his collection of photography negatives for an estimated half-million dollars after Illinois administrators began hunting for an heir in 2014. Legal representatives from the county were attempting to proceed with asset valuation when the man sold the negatives. Now, his defiance could result in his being forced to repay the sum and forfeit claims to the estate.
The county is struggling to administer this particular estate, considering that the woman's collection consists of thousands of valuable street photographs that are highly sought by art enthusiasts. The man in this case is accused of selling the woman's work to a Canadian gallery owner, who in turn sold it to a European investment group. It is unclear whether Illinois authorities will be able to retrieve those items for future distribution of assets.
All of this could have been easily avoided if the woman had simply left an estate plan behind. Sending your estate into probate administration can lead to serious controversy, particularly if the government entity is unable to properly manage your assets. For instance, the government is being forced to house the woman's art assets, and it is not accustomed to preserving valuable pieces such as these. An estate plan can provide protection for your potential heirs and make distribution of assets much easier.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "Suit alleges artist illegally profited off Vivian Maier's world-famous photos," Jason Meisner, May 01, 2017