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Estate planning and administration: Executor seeks missing art

A relative of former First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis has taken action in court against an art gallery owner in another state. Those in Illinois who are currently trying to resolve estate planning and administration problems that involve disputes over inheritance or assets may want to follow this case. The plaintiff is the nephew of Onassis's cousin who claims that upon his aunt's deathbed, she reminded him of the missing family heirloom, namely, a portrait of Onassis commissioned by her father when she was age 19.

When the portrait was spotted at an art gallery by the nephew's wife, she approached the gallery owner to inquire about it. He reportedly told her he had purchased it from an antiques dealer who had since died; however, he refused to name the dealer. The nephew's wife turned to a 1998 magazine article contained in the decedent's records to confirm that the artwork she saw at the gallery appeared to be the missing family heirloom, which she and her husband say was stolen in a burglary that was never reported to authorities.

The art gallery owner adamantly claims to be the rightful owner of the painting. He says if it were a stolen artifact, he would immediately return it to the family as he would never want his own professional or personal reputation tarnished. He says he is certain he owns the painting but refuses to state its value or reveal the identity of the antiques dealer who sold him the portrait.

The court will now intervene to determine the truth. Not every Illinois estate planning and administration dispute has to do with allegedly stolen family heirlooms, much less those that pertain to national history. Still, many families encounter similar problems following loved ones' deaths that may be difficult to resolve without legal representation.

Source: New York Daily News, "'Grey Gardens' estate sues Long Island gallery for owning stolen Jackie Kennedy painting", Andrew Keshner, Feb. 10, 2018

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