Wills are aimed at giving individuals the opportunity to control how their possessions will be distributed upon their death. Sometimes, after a person with a will dies, complex issues arise regarding what property is covered under the will. For example, sometimes, unclear language in a will gives rise to questions as to whether the language applies to a certain piece of property or not. This is one of the reasons why having clear language in a will is very important. Another important and complex question that sometimes arises in will cases is whether a certain piece of property actually belonged to the deceased individual. What the answer to this question is can be very impactful in will cases, as wills can only control property that belonged to the deceased individual.
Recently, a jury reached a decision in an interesting will case that involved the question of ownership. The case involved the will of actress Farrah Fawcett. Fawcett died in 2009. In her will, she stated that the University of Texas was to be given “all” of her artwork.
A legal dispute arose between the University of Texas and actor Ryan O’Neal, who was in a relationship with Fawcett, over whether a certain piece of artwork was covered under the above-mentioned term of the will. The piece of artwork is one of two portraits that artist Andy Warhol did of Fawcett in 1980. The university alleged that Warhol gave both of the portraits to Fawcett, and thus that the will applies to both of them. O’Neal, on the other hand, claimed that Warhol gave one of the two portraits to him instead of Fawcett, and thus that the will does not apply to that portrait.
There was not any documentation regarding who Warhol specifically gave the portraits to. Consequently, the case ended up focusing primarily on testimony.
As we mentioned above, a verdict was recently reached in this case. The jury ruled in favor of O’Neal. The university has not yet made a decision as to whether or not it will appeal this verdict.
Source: CNN, “Ryan O’Neal can keep Farrah Fawcett portrait, jury says,” Ann O’Neill, Dec. 20, 2013