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Friday, March 30, 2018

Amid 15-year legal dispute, new executor named for artist C.C. Wang's estate

What a nightmare! Fifteen years into the dispute and things are really just getting going. The stress and unhappiness for the family of C.C. Wang must be immeasurable.

C.C. Wang was a Chinese-American artist and collector whose name is on New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, Asian art wing. He died in 2003. His grandson was named as the executor of the estate, estimated to be valued at $60 million.

Since that time, Wang's daughter (who was disinherited by the will) has tried to have the grandson removed as the executor for a number of reasons. Mostly the problem is that the grandson appears to be seriously mishandling the estate. There are allegations that he stole works from the deceased's collection, re-sold items at many times their value while keeping the money, and that almost 50 pieces of art are unaccounted for. There are also allegations that Wang, who was 90 when he died, was suffering from dementia and was influenced by his grandson into making the will in his favour.

In this, the daughter's second attempt through the courts, she was successful in having the grandson removed and herself named to replace him. She is now in a position to investigate many of the transactions and allegations that she could not get access to before. This means it's not over yet. Click here to read a more detailed article about this estate at

While the dollar values in this case are high and the deceased is famous in art circles, the issues are just the same as the ones that cross my desk on a regular basis. Any estate litigator will tell you that the trials and tribulations of the estates of rich and famous people are just like those of the rest of us, except for the public attention.

You'll notice that the trouble in this case appears to have started when someone took advantage of Mr. Wang's impaired state of mind and influenced him into preparing documents in their favour. Unfortunately, we all are vulnerable if we are in that position. However, one of the best and smartest things you can do for yourself is to make documents naming representatives while you are mentally healthy. Make a Health Care Directive and an Enduring Power of Attorney while you are at full strength and while you have the time and ability to put some real thought into who you want in charge and what you want them to do.

Anybody with Mr. Wang's wealth should have been working with a financial advisor, as should everyone who has amassed even a reasonable amount of wealth. An advisor will talk to you about trusts that will take assets out of your estate and help you structure your money in ways that will benefit those you care about.

An executor who is determined to find a way to steal from an estate might well be able to do so. I've certainly seen it happen. But there is a lot we can do while we're alive to prevent these long, drawn-out, expensive lawsuits from happening in our estates.

*The photo attached is called "Twin Pines, Level Distance" , painted by Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322) and is credited to The Metropolitan Musem of Art.

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