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Report on artist’s business reveals risk of undue influence

Peter Max is one of the best-known visual artists in the world. His brightly colored artwork symbolized the pop art and psychedelic art movements of the 1960s and ’70s, and has only grown more popular since then. He has been named the official artist for numerous sports events, including the Super Bowl, the World Series and the World Cup, and his work has adorned album covers, U.S. postage stamps and even the side of a cruise ship. Indeed, in recent years many of his works have been sold at galleries aboard cruise ships.

Sadly, news reports indicate that Max, 81, suffers from advanced dementia and hasn’t painted anything in years. Nonetheless, many new works have turned out bearing his name.

According to a recent New York Times report, a group of business associates and family members have hired artists to continue creating Max-inspired works and sell them as though they are Max’s original work.

The allegations about his artwork are just part of the legal and financial scandal swirling around Max. According to the Times report, his family members and business associates have been engaged in numerous lawsuits with each other over the past five years, with many of them accusing the others of exploiting an ill man in order to squeeze more money out of his art empire.

While few people have the wealth of fame of Max, it is unfortunately not uncommon for older people to be financially exploited by friends, family members and even those who have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the person’s finances. Many family members don’t find out about this kind of exploitation and undue influence until after the person has passed away. This kind of situation pops up again and again in probate litigation.

An attorney with experience in estate planning and probate litigation can help the elderly and their family members to avoid these disputes when possible, and to manage them effectively when they can’t be avoided. These are sensitive issues and they require experienced help.