Gurlitt Relatives Formally Challenge Will that Named Kunstmuseum Bern as Heir

Art Law Report 21 November 2014
By Nicholas O'Donnell

When we wrote yesterday that everything had been said before seeing how the press conference plays out on Monday at which the Kunstmuseum Bern and Germany will make an announcement, it was somewhat tongue in cheek.  Today provides an example why: relatives of Cornelius Gurlitt, who would be his heirs at law in the absence of the will that named the Kunstmuseum Bern as his heir, formally announced a challenge to that will today in a Munich court

Uta Werner is, according to accounts, the first cousin of the late Cornelius Gurlitt.  Her father Willbald Gurlitt, and Cornelius’s father Hildebrand Gurlitt were brothers.  Her announcement claims the full support of her brother Dietrich, as well as her children.  According to today’s reports, the relatives were content to see how the Kunstmuseum decided and then take action, but that after receiving the expert opinion from psychiatrist Helmut Hausner that questioned his ability to make that decision and raised the prospect that he was delusional, changed their minds and decided to challenge the will. 

Timing for resolution of the challenge is unclear, but it will certainly dampen the atmosphere of Monday’s press conference, since whatever deal the museum and Germany have struck now risks being undermined if the will does not survive.  To state it plainly, the museum only gets the art if the will is valid, but if the relatives convince the German court that Cornelius was not able to make a will of his own volition, then it has no effect at all.
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