May 6, 2016

Legal battle continues over famous photographer’s estate

Ms Maier’s estate is currently being represented by the public administrator’s office in Cook County, Illinois, after it was discovered that the famous photographer had stated no obvious heirs in her will.

Although taking place in a different jurisdiction, the case is a testament to the importance of writing a secure will in order to set in stone the future of assets following an unexpected death.

Best known for her intimate and endearing photos of ‘everyday people’ taken on the streets of New York and Chicago, Ms Maier has taken more than 150,000 photographs over the course of her career – several of which were purchased by a collector, Mr John Maloof.

Mr Maloof, who claims to have posthumously discovered many of Ms Maier’s photos, has a tentative agreement in place with the public administrator over a number of the now-priceless photos – although this is still subject to a probate Judge's approval.

A complex copyright case involving Mr Maloof has recently been resolved, but the issue remains that the photographer’s will fails to address which of at least two of her distant relatives is the proper heir to the remainder of her estate.

In the state of Illinois, where laws differ immensely to the UK, the closest living relative is typically considered the heir to the estate of a person who has no valid will.

However, two estranged relatives are currently fighting over the estate, since an unnamed distant relative of the photographer found him/herself at loggerheads in Court with collector Mr Maloof.

Mr Maloof, an enthusiast of Ms Maier’s life and work, believes the rightful heir to be a Mr Sylvain Jaussaud – a distant cousin of the esteemed photographer, yet relatives seem to strongly disagree.

The case continues, highlighting the complex issues which can arise when a family member fails to have a will in place to protect his/her assets.

For advice relating to wills and inheritance disputes please contact Tony Millson or Deanna Hurst.

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