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Kevorkian Estate Litigation in Michigan Court Disputes Ownership of Art

A lawsuit between the Jack Kevorkian estate and a Boston museum regarding artworks by the late Michigan doctor was filed in October in Oakland County Circuit Court. The estate demands the return of 17 paintings that are in the possession of the Armenian Library and Museum of America.

The suit claims that Kevorkian lent the paintings to the museum for a 1999 exhibition, and that after he was imprisoned for his role in an assisted suicide, he decided that the paintings should temporarily remain at the museum. The personal representative of Kevorkian’s estate stated that the paintings have been appraised at between $2.5 and $3.5 million.

An October auction at the New York Institute of Technology of a variety of Kevorkian’s personal items did not result in any bids for the paintings, which remain subject to the outcome of litigation. According to Kevorkian’s estate plan, the proceeds of sale would be provided to his sole heir – his niece – as well as a children’s cancer charity.

The museum has refused to return the paintings, and has filed its own suit in Massachusetts to establish ownership. The museum claims that Kevorkian had attended an exhibition of the paintings in 2008 and publicly confirmed that he had donated the artworks.

Handling Diverse Probate and Estate Administration Challenges

One notable aspect of the case is that Jack Kevorkian appointed his long-time attorney as personal representative of his estate. When unexpected issues arise in the aftermath of a person’s death, deep familiarity with all aspects of a testator’s estate planning strategy can make a significant difference. A personal representative’s or trustee’s comprehensive knowledge of the full extent of a person’s estate, from cherished personal property to business interests or financial assets that may be under another party’s control, helps provide for will and trust beneficiaries to the full extent intended in an estate plan.

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