When legendary Manhattan radio producer Himan Brown died last year, his children were to inherit a collection of paintings and sculptures worth millions. Instead, the Himan Brown inheritance ended up being a collection of fakes and forgeries.
Brown was 99-years-old when he died last year. Prior to his death, he had amassed a $40 million estate including his collection of artwork that included works by Degas, Manet, Renoir, and others, reports the New York Post.
Brown and his ex-wife had supposedly agreed to give the artwork to their children when Brown died, reports the Post. They apparently reached this agreement when the couple was going through their divorce.
However, when his children received the artwork after the radio producer died, they discovered that almost the entire collection was fake. In a $27 million lawsuit against their father's estate, Brown's children claim that Brown had switched out the real paintings for a collection of forgeries, reports the Post.
They have no idea what happened to the real paintings.
Generally, individuals have the right to direct who will inherit their assets. So, Himan Brown could have drafted a will bequeathing his Manet to his landscaper if he wanted to.
But that right to direct your own will may be restricted if you had a valid agreement limiting your freedom. For example, if Himan Brown and his ex-wife had a binding agreement to hand over the artwork to their children, then Brown may have lost his freedom to give away his assets as he chose.
The Himan Brown inheritance of forgeries was a surprise to his kids. Whether his children have any legal remedy may depend upon whether there was ever a valid agreement between Brown and his ex-wife.
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- Himan Brown dies at 99; pioneer symbolizes an entire era of dramatic radio entertainment (Los Angeles Times)
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- How to Revoke a Will in New York (FindLaw's New York Estate Planning News)