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Nightmarish dispute over famed children’s author’s estate

It’s a two-hour drive from Flemington to Ridgefield, Connecticut, home of the late Maurice Sendak. When the famed writer and illustrator passed away two years ago, the New York Times hailed him as an “author of splendid nightmares.”

Recent news articles report that Sendak’s estate is in probate litigation with the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia. At the center of the dispute is possession of some rare books owned by the author of “Where the Wild Things Are.”

The museum says the estate’s trustees are failing to live up to the terms of Sendak’s will. In the document, the Times reports, the museum claims, the writer said he wanted “much of his rare book collection — as well as many of his own writings and illustrations” — to be displayed at the museum with which he had a years-long relationship.

The will reportedly calls for negotiation between the trustees and the Rosenbach.

Those negotiations are apparently the point on which the dispute has raised its head like one of Sendak’s monsters from his most famous children’s book.

The dispute is focused on a rare copy of William Blake's “Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience,” and a number of books by Beatrix Potter, author of “Peter Rabbit.”

It is probably fair to speculate that if he had to do it all over again, the writer might choose to sit down with his estate planning attorney and reword his will. He might well spell out exactly which titles are to be kept at the Rosenbach and which titles are to be left to executors (they are apparently going to auction some of his books off).

An experienced estate planning attorney learns from the mistakes of others, and helps make your wishes for your heirs clear.  

Source: KRVS, "Book News: Battle Over Maurice Sendak's Book Collection Sparks A Lawsuit," Colin Dwyer, Nov. 11, 2014

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