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Lengthy probate process ensues after death of photographer

Artistic endeavors are not generally thought of as big money makers in California. On the other hand, in rare instances, some artists become highly recognized in their field, causing the prices of their pieces to be valued at high price points. However, if the artist does not have proper estate planning in place, this can result in a lengthy and contentious probate process following his or her death.

It turns out that one world-renowned street photographer, Vivian Maier, had failed to do any estate planning, which has made administering her estate a challenge. This has caused the probate process to become increasingly contentious. The ownership of copyrights to the street photographer's images are valued at millions of dollars.

The search for the photographer's next of kin focuses on her mysterious brother, Charles. The photographer's brother has been a mystery for those looking into the case. Apparently, it was not even known if he was still alive. Even his exact age is unknown to investigators at this time. There is some speculation that Charles may have married.

The brother's death certificate was discovered; however, the document, which will reveal his true birth date and possibly whether or not he had any children, is sealed from the public until 2017. On the other hand, it is possible for the death certificate to become public record by having it subpoenaed in the ongoing probate court case. The death certificate may provide the necessary information to allow proper distribution of the photographer's estate.

The probate process in court is sometimes not that straightforward. Therefore, it is best for those involved in any probate litigation in California to be knowledgeable of the correct court procedures in order to go through the process as efficiently as possible. Also, if the case is contentious, it will be essential to understand all of the applicable laws in order to present a legal argument in the court of law if it becomes necessary.

Source:, "Hunt for heirs comes amid court fight over photographer's collection potentially worth millions", Jason Meisner, Aug. 25, 2015

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