A Tale of a Gift Gone Wrong

Most gifts are more than welcome and the terms of most wills are straightforward. But, as the earlier article points out, well-thought-out gift acceptance policies and trustworthy appraisals perhaps could have prevented the following situation, which is likely to end up costing more than the eventual worth of a gift.

The problem gift

As reported in The New York Times Jan. 15, a large number of Dutch and Renaissance paintings, Chinese porcelains, and jewelry were left through a 1932 bequest to The Brooklyn Museum.

Why it’s a problem

More than 900 of the paintings have turned out to be fakes, misattributions or of poor quality. About one quarter of the pieces are essentially worthless.

As a provision of the will, the museum cannot dispose of them without permission from the will’s executors, who have been deceased for more than 50 years.

While it explores legal solutions, the museum as a result must continue to pay for costly storage of the items in compliance with Association of American Museums standards.

Effective gift acceptance standards at the time the bequest was offered could have prevented problems that surfaced decades later.


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