Monday, June 8, 2009

Battle for the Starving Artist's 60 Million Dollar Estate

Mary Kass was born on June 14, 1930. She was raised in Washington, D.C., graduated from Sidwell Friends School, studied art at the University of Michigan and the Sorbonne. She studied in Provincetown under expressionist artist Hans Hofmann and in later years, out of fondness for the area moved there permanently.

Mary Kass was a dedicated artist who inherited a fortune. She was worth 60 million dollars and had an extensive art collection that includes Matisse, Picasso, and Renoir among others.

Even before she died on March 19 this year, the battle for her estate was on. It started with a guardian fight between Kass's relatives (she had no immediate family) and her personal trainer, Elizabeth Villari, who met Kass in Sept 2001. The nieces and nephew claim that Vallari and Mary Kass's psychotherapist, Mary Ellen Henry, took advantage of Kass's dementia and in less than two years Mary had changed her will to benefit them.

According to a report in the Boston Globe, Kass lived the life that her neighbors thought of as a starving artist in a modest home in Provincetwon. Elisabeth Villari was given power of attorney and later purchased a 3 water-front houses valued at $6.7 million total. She then had the modest house Kass lived in sold. The relatives argued that this was out of character for a woman who had always preferred a simpler private life.

They went to visit Kass and felt she was suffering from dementia and filed for guardianship. Henry and Villari claimed that Kass was not close to her relatives and it was they who took care of Kass during her bouts with depression and encouraged her to have a social life.

The court awarded guardianship to Villari and now with Kass's death the fight continues. Mary made a will in 2004, but the relatives have produced on dated 1992 and are claiming undue influence.

Merrill Lynch is a co-trustee and has asked the probate judge to be allowed to manage the estate without Vallari until the issues are settled.

No comments: