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Verdict reached in lawsuit between UT and Ryan O'Neal

The lawsuit between the University of Texas and Ryan O’Neal was intriguing in many respects. It essentially pitted O’Neal’s memory of a photo shoot with Andy Warhol and the late Farrah Fawcett against Fawcett’s will.

 According to her will, the university was supposed to have all artwork Fawcett owned. However, O’Neal claimed that the portrait hanging in his bedroom was a gift from the late artist. He testified during the trial that he arranged for the photo shoot with Andy Warhol (that eventually led to the painting) on the condition that he and Fawcett would each be given a portrait. He also testified that the story became a common tale that they would tell at parties. He insisted that the story was true as Fawcett never disputed the story or told people otherwise.  Indeed, the university disagreed, and contended that Fawcett’s late clearly stated that the portrait should be donated.

Fawcett passed away four years ago. Also, O’Neal’s estranged daughter, Tatum, did not testify, even though she was reportedly present when the photo shoot took place. Nevertheless, a majority of the 12 person jury agreed with O’Neal and awarded him custody of the painting.

The story is a high-profile example of what can occur when a person’s will is not clear about the custody of personal items. Disputes can arise over ownership of personal items that have emotional significance and value. The painting at issue here was reportedly worth more than $1 million. If you have questions about the ownership of items in a will, an experienced probate and estate litigation attorney can help. 

Source: CNN.com, “Ryan O’Neal can keep Andy Warhol painting of Farrah Fawcett, jury says,” Ann O’Niell, December 20, 2013

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