Most of our Michigan readers probably remember Dr. Jack Kevorkian. The nationally known advocate for assisted-suicide died in the Detroit area in June of this year at the age of 83. Of course, this was only after he served a prison sentence after being convicted in 1999 of second-degree murder for his role in the assisted suicide of a terminally ill Michigan resident. He was released in 2007. Now, in the course of Kevorkian's ongoing estate administration, it looks as if some of his personal property will be returning to his designated heir.
As it turns out, Kevorkian was something of an artist. 17 of his paintings became embroiled in probate litigation, after he had originally made arrangement for the paintings to go a museum before his prison term. The legal filings show that his sole heir, a niece, argued through the executor of the estate that the museum only received the paintings on loan, basically for safekeeping since apparently a few of the paintings had been stolen before. The museum apparently argued that the painting were an outright donation.
A final agreement was reached, however, and now the museum will keep four of the paintings and the remaining pieces of artwork will be returned to Kevorkian's niece. It is expected that the returned artwork will be put up for sale.
When disagreements over estate assets arise, lengthy - and often costly - probate litigation can become necessary. Fortunately, in this case, it appears that the parties were able to conclude a deal which was mutually beneficial. However, the whole ordeal could have been avoided with a detailed and comprehensive estate plan, used to spell out all of Kevorkian's exact wishes. A comprehensive estate plan is usually the best option to avoid confusion such as this.
Source: CBS Detroit, "Kevorkian Estate, Museum Settle Over Artwork," Oct. 5, 2012