The artist in this case made a Will many years ago, naming one executor. It left a number of cash legacies and then stated that his paintings should be distributed by his executor according to his wishes that he had apparently made known already. When the artist died, it transpired that the executor was unaware of his wishes and no instructions were ever found.
After the death, the executor did his best to ensure that a few paintings were taken by a local institution. He entrusted the rest to a colleague of the artist. Unfortunately, apart from those few paintings on show at the institution, the remainder of the artist's work disappeared from public view. There was no certainty over which works had survived nor any plan to ensure that they could be seen by the public in future. Two charities were named as 'default' beneficiaries in the Will. Without clarity on how the legacy should be managed, the charities will have a legitimate claim to all the artist's work - which would, most likely, result in a forced sale.
We have advised on the transfer of legal ownership from executor to newly appointed trustees and are in dialogue with the artist's colleague thought to be caring for the majority of the works to reach agreement on an appropriate long-term arrangement for public access at an interested museum.