An Estate Plan Needs to Be Precise

11/24/2016

Connecticut court makes a decision on Maurice Sendak's book collection.

Legal intrigue can surround an estate plan if it isn't specific and raises some questions, according to The New York Times in "Maurice Sendak's Estate Is Awarded Most of a Book Collection."

The lesson to be learned from this case begins with the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia which housed many original drawings and books owned by Maurice Sendak the author of Where the Wild Things Are. Most people believed the collection would stay at the museum. However, his will contained provisions that his estate should create a foundation and a museum in Connecticut to make the items available for public viewing.

In 2014, Sendak's estate took the items back from the museum. The museum filed a lawsuit in Connecticut probate court because Sendak's will also included a provision that "rare edition" books should be given to the Rosenbach.

In short, the court had to determine whether 340 books could be considered rare editions, including illuminated volumes of William Blake's poetry that could be worth millions.

The court recently ruled that 88 of the books should remain with the Philadelphia museum but the rest should go to the estate.

It is important to be as precise as possible when creating an estate plan. While to some experts it might seem obvious whether or not a particular book edition is rare, the term leaves room for disagreement as this lawsuit illustrates.

Sendak could have been specific about exactly which titles he wished to remain at the museum in Philadelphia and which he wanted to belong in a new museum in Connecticut.

Consult with an estate planning attorney who can guide you in being specific in setting up your estate plan.