An Illinois probate court is trying to sort out who has the rights to the estate of outsider artist Henry Darger—and has so far found “lots of holes” in the court documents. When Darger, died in 1973, his landlords, unaware of heirs, began selling pieces of his art, which they believed he had left to them. Some of Darger’s artworks now sell for as much as $800,000—and potential heirs have come forward.
The New York Times reports that Henry Darger was a Chicago janitor and dishwasher who, despite the many challenges of his life from childhood on, left an incredible body of visual and written works of art behind—in his two-room rental unit—when he died in a nursing home at the age of 81. Just prior to his death, Darger’s oeuvre was discovered by his landlord, Nathan Lerner. Though Nathan is now dead, his wife, Kiyoko Lerner, continues to manage the care and sale of Darger’s art, asserting that Darger “gave all his belongings to my late husband…before he passed away.” Although Darger was unknown as an artist when he died, his creative works are now in museums, galleries and collections around the world.
Henry Darger’s estate has landed in an Illinois probate court now that relations have been identified and come forward. As The New York Times explains:
“The Darger relatives — most of them first cousins twice or three times removed — were recently tracked down…With the help of HeirSearch, a forensic genealogy research company, the family members identified Darger descendants who are named in the probate papers. Christen Sadowski, a Darger relative who is the point person for the family, has said that their claim is “about righting a wrong.
The dispute highlights the thorny territory of how to handle legacies and copyrights after the death of largely unknown artists. Regarding the Darger material, a 2019 article in a Northwestern University law journal questioned whether, under Illinois and federal law, the landlords were correct in assuming the rights…But others argue that, were it not for the Lerners, Darger’s work would never have been recognized.”
Probate Can Be Helpful
Although it is generally assumed that it is best to avoid probate, the reality is that the probate process can turn out to be very useful. Flick Law Group explains that probate can be simply defined as “the court-supervised process for distributing a deceased person’s money and property….” As the estate of Henry Darger illustrates, court supervision, is not always a bad thing. In some states, specialty probate courts are even under consideration in anticipation of the unprecedented transfer of wealth that will occur over the next several decades.
In many states, including Illinois, as Brabender Law explains, it’s typical for probate courts to require procurement of a probate bond . A probate bond, sometimes also referred to as an administrator bond or personal representative bond, essentially protects the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries in accordance with state law. Colonial Surety is a leading, direct provider of probate bonds , written to meet the specific requirements of courts in each state. We make it quick and easy to obtain probate bonds—and all types of bonds. The steps to obtaining a probate bond with Colonial are easy: get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even while at court. It’s that simple. Probate Bonds Here.
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