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Celebrity Legacies: Farrah Fawcett's Face Launches A War

When someone mentions Farrah Fawcett, most people think of her looks.  But what about her brains -- her financial savvy in particular?  The actress and model who rose to fame as one of Charlie's Angels planned well to protect her troubled son, Redmond, after she passed away.  Yet all was not angelic when it came to her financial legacy.  Farrah-Fawcett-by-Andy-Warhol1-300x300

This is installment #9 of our Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts. See other articles in the series here.

Farrah Fawcett was far from the stereotypical blonde model when it came to finances.  She was hired to do five seasons of Charlie's Angels, by Aaron Spelling's production company.  After the first season hit it big, Fawcett re-negotiated for more money.  Relying on the fact that she never actually signed the contract, she was able to secure an increase in per-episode salary from $5,000 to $100,000.

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Farrah Fawcett Portrait Trial Ends In Favor Of Ryan O'Neal

Farrah Fawcett‘s estate planning wishes have been at the center of a number of lawsuits, as we describe in this article about Ryan O’Neal.  O’Neal was sued by the University of Texas, which claimed that he wrongfully removed the famed Andy Warhol Farrah Fawcett painting from her home after she died.  O’Neal defended himself, saying that this copy of the painting was his and he had permission to take it back after Fawcett died.   Farrah-Fawcett-by-Andy-Warhol1-300x300

The University of Texas disagreed, suing O’Neal back in 2011.  The University’s lawyers felt that, because Fawcett’s revocable living trust left all of her artwork to the University, it should be the rightful owner of the Farrah Fawcett paining, not O’Neal.  It turns out there were actually two copies of the famed portrait, and the University already received one of them.  But it sued O’Neal for the other one too.

The case proceeded to trial last month, lasting three weeks.  O’Neal called several witnesses, including former friends of Fawcett and her former caregiver, who all testified that the second copy of the painting belonged to O’Neal.  He testified that Warhol gave him the second copy, because he was the one who brokered the deal for the famous portrait to be made in the 1970′s.

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Did Ryan O'Neal Steal Painting From Farrah Fawcett's Estate?

Seventies beauty icon Farrah Fawcett died in June of 2009 at the age of 62, following a terrible battle with cancer.  She did the proper estate planning, complete with a will and a trust.   [You can read the trust here].  So why are there not one, but two lawsuits over one of her assets?   Farrah Fawcett 2

It all comes down to a famous Andy Warhol painting of Fawcett.  Warhol painted two silkscreen paintings of Fawcett and reportedly gave them both to her as presents.  [You can see one of the two paintings here].

Fawcett’s trust provides that her art collection passed to the University of Texas, her alma mater.  The University received one of the two Warhol paintings, but not the other.  So where is it?

In the possession of Fawcett’s  former on-again, off-again boyfriend, Ryan O’Neal … and he doesn’t even dispute that he has it.  So the University of Texas sued O’Neal, claiming the painting belonged to Fawcett when she died and should now belong to it.

O’Neal denies it.  He says he was friends with Warhol even before Fawcett, and Warhol gave him the painting.  He’s so incensed about the lawsuit that he started one of his own … against a man named Craig Nevius.

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More Legal Fireworks Involving Farrah Fawcett's Trust

Ryan O'Neal is at it again.  He and Craig Nevius, a Hollywood producer who used to work closely with Farrah Fawcett, are in the midst of more legal fighting against one another.   Farrah-Fawcett-by-Andy-Warhol

Initially, they both sued, each claiming the other had exploited Fawcett while she was sick from the cancer that claimed her life.  Why?  They both said the other had taken advantage of her to produce a documentary about her life and her sickness.  Those lawsuits ended when Nevius ran out of money for legal fees.

Now, he has no choice but to continue fighting.  Ryan O'Neal -- Farrah's ex and father to Farrah's son -- has sued Nevius again.  What's at stake this time?  It's all about the art.

Specifically, a certain, famed Andy Warhol painting of Fawcett in O'Neal's possession. O'Neal says Warhol gave it to him years ago.  Not everyone thinks he's being honest though.

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Did Ryan O'Neal take advantage of Farrah Fawcett?

Farrah Fawcett, dying from cancer, floated in and out of consciousness and needed a full-time nurse when Ryan O’Neal interceded to appease NBC and make sure a documentary about Fawcett’s struggle with cancer aired in time for the May sweeps period. At least, that’s the picture painted in a recent New York Times articleFarrah-fawcett-young

We’ve blogged before about the lawsuit which pitted Fawcett-confidant and television producer, Craig Nevius, against the on-again, off-again ex-husband/boyfriend of Fawcett, Ryan O’Neal. Nevius was working with Fawcett to produce a documentary about her struggles with cancer, to help highlight flaws in the American medical system and how it treated cancer patients.

But, NBC wasn’t pleased with the progress of the documentary and insisted that it be completed on time for a May 2009 airing. Nevius did not want to release the footage without final approval from Fawcett, but she was too sick to provide it, he says.

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Trial & Heirs' Top Tips for 2011 via Forbes

Now into the second month of 2011, it’s not too late to make a fresh start with the important topic of estate planning, which so many people find ways to keep putting off. We think it’s helpful to see what happened last year with some celebrity estates to help add motivation for proper legal planning in 2011. Forbes_home_logo

What happened in 2010? Dennis Hopper and Gary Coleman both passed away, sparking ugly court fights. The estates of Michael Jackson and Steve McNair dragged on with no end in sight, and Anna Nicole Smith’s efforts to claim a share of her 90-year old deceased husband’s billion dollar estate continued into its fifteenth year in court! In addition, the estates of Farah Fawcett, Gary Coleman, Brittany Murphy, and George Steinbrenner provided valuable lessons on how to (and how not to) protect families through estate planning.

Here’s how to make the most of changes in the law this year.

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Forbes Video on Protecting Against Financial Exploitation

2011 marks the first year that baby boomers turn 65.  This means there will be a dramatic increase in the number of seniors in the years to come, making it extra important to raise awareness and help families protect against financial exploitation.  Forbes_home_logo

Andrew Mayoras recently discussed this topic, featuring some prevention tips on Forbes.com.  Of course, discussions of a few celebrity cases are included, such as Wesley Snipes, Anna Nicole Smith, and Farrah Fawcett.

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