Why is it that the estates of famous artists end up embroiled in lengthy estate battles? One reason is a lack of planning before their deaths; another is because those left behind aren’t sure how to administer the estate; and finally, because the value of the estate often goes up following their deaths, the swelling fortune can be a temptation to family members.

The Estates of Famous Artists

Robert Indiana, who was beloved for his 1965 image of the stacked letters L-O-V-E died at his island home in Vinalhaven, Maine on May 19, just a few months short of his 90th birthday, already embroiled in a legal battle over his iconic works of art.

Just a week before his death, a lawsuit was filed by the artist’s agent, the Morgan Art Foundation, against his studio manager, Jamie L. Thomas. Indiana, described in the lawsuit as “bedridden and infirm,” and intentionally isolated by Thomas, had a new will drawn up in 2016, (superseding a 2013 will) that turned over power of attorney to Thomas. “It is our contention that Indiana was in poor health, and he had a difficult time reading,” the lawsuit claims. “He was not aware that he had assigned power of attorney and not mentally competent.” The Foundation allege he was unable to provide informed consent to what was being done in his name.