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The Estate of Pablo Picasso: Not a Pretty Picture

Malm & LaFave, S.C. Aug. 3, 2023

Pablo Picasso is one of the most notorious artists in modern history. At the time of his death in 1973, he had an incredible estate of over 45,000 works of art, three homes, two châteaux, an extensive portfolio of stocks and bonds, and millions in cash. Despite his impressive collection of assts and priceless art, Picasso did not have a will. This led to an extensive legal battle in France over the distribution of his estate. This blog post will examine the beautiful yet complicated estate of Pablo Picasso and the contentious fight over his assets.

Appraisal Process

Before the court proceedings began over Picasso’s estate, it took experts over three years to appraise the works stored in his various homes. In total, the estate contained 1,876 paintings, 11,000 drawings, 2,800 ceramic pieces, 1,355 sculptures, and over 27,000 more pieces not classified under a specific medium. Though meticulous, the appraisal process uncovered many never-before-seen masterpieces. Appraisers officially valued the estate at $250 million, but many experts believe it to be closer to $400 million ($2.1 billion today, adjusted for inflation).

Court Battles

The arduous legal battles for Picasso’s estate gained global media attention. Without a will designating specific beneficiaries, Picasso’s heirs and art institutions fought ruthlessly for a share of the estate. A probate was opened in France, Picasso’s main country of residence, to oversee the division of his assets. After years of private negotiations and court proceedings, an agreement was finally reached between the parties. His only legitimate son, Paulo Picasso, passed away in 1975, so the estate was passed to his two surviving children, Claude and Paloma Ruiz-Picasso, and grandchildren, Marina Picasso and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso.

Picasso’s Legacy Lives On

Due to the sheer size of the estate, Picasso was forced to pay approximately 20% of the total value of the estate in inheritance taxes. Under French law, however, art pieces with exceptional value can be donated to the French government to satisfy estate tax bills. In the end, hundreds of his pieces were donated to various museums. This led to the creation of the infamous art museum, the Musée national Picasso-Paris, that currently holds the world’s most expansive collection of Picasso pieces.

In 1996, Claude Picasso also oversaw the creation of the Picasso Administration, an organization in charge of protecting Picasso’s legacy. The organization works tirelessly to prevent the pirating and theft of his art pieces on the black market, prosecute the illicit use of Picasso’s name on various products and advertisements, and oversees the heirs’ jointly owned assets from the estate.

Today, his heirs continue to make art donations from the estate to various galleries and museums across the world. The complications that ensued after Picasso’s death exemplify the benefits of drafting a will and estate planning documents. Not only did his estate cause quarrels between loved ones, but hundreds of priceless art pieces were surrendered to satisfy his inheritance tax. Even if you are not a world-renowned artist worth billions of dollars, having proper estate planning documents can ensure your assets are protected. The experienced attorneys at Malm & LaFave, S.C. are ready to listen and assist you with any questions you may have. Contact our office to begin your estate planning today.