27 Apr 2012

Who Owns The Second Warhol Painting of Farrah?

Former Charlie’s Angels actress Farrah Fawcett died of cancer on June 25, 2009 at the age of 62. Farrah’s trust provides that upon her death, all of her artwork and objects of art are to be distributed to her alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin (UTA). Her trust does not define the term “artwork” and, not surprisingly, has caused confusion regarding the scope of Farrah’s artwork. The lack of guidance in Farrah’s trust about what constitutes her artwork has lead to litigation that continues to this day.

In the matter The Board of Regents for the University of Texas System vs. Ryan O’Neal, Los Angeles Superior Court Case BC 468 468, UTA sued Ryan O’Neal asking the court to order Ryan to turn over to it an Andy Warhol painting of Farrah, with an estimated value of $30 million. During his lifetime, Warhol painted two silk screen paintings of Farrah. UTA claims in its court papers that Warhol gave both paintings to Farrah as gifts. After Farrah died, UTA was given all of Farrah’s artwork, which included only one Warhol painting of Farrah. When UTA learned that two Warhol paintings of Farrah existed, it hired an investigator to find the other painting. Fortuitously for UTA, the second Warhol painting appeared in an episode of a reality television show staring Ryan and daughter, Tatum O’Neal, hanging on the wall in Ryan’s bedroom.

Ryan countersued UTA claiming that UTA has no right to the Warhol painting of Farrah that was given to him personally by Warhol himself. Ryan further claims that the Trustee of Farrah’s trust improperly gave UTA artwork that was jointly owned by Ryan and Farrah. A trial date has recently been set in this matter for November 27, 2012. So, we’ll have to wait and see who truly owns the second Warhol painting of Farrah.

This case highlights the importance of clearly defining gifts of personal property, particularly highly valued personal property, in your Will or trust to avoid any confusion that might cause a loved one to be known as “plaintiff” or “defendant” following your death.

If you would like to discuss this or other trusts and estates issues, please contact the attorneys at Drucker Law Offices, 468 North Camden Drive, 2nd Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, 310.285.5375 Tel, 310.444.9754 Fax, www.druckerlaw.com

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