Art, royalties and other treasures of unclaimed estates
03 August 2015

Art, royalties and other treasures of unclaimed estates

Step into the 1910 room at Tate Britain in London, and the eighth work of art on the right is The Cinema by William Roberts.

It is the only work by Roberts that is on display in the free galleries of the Tate, but others are on show in galleries around the UK.

The story of his life's work is more accurately told in the unseen Tate collection.

A founder of the Vorticist art movement, he died in 1980 and his wife Sarah died in 1992. Her death led to an inheritance tax bill which was settled when 117 works were eventually allocated to the Tate collection in lieu of the tax.

When their only child John died, friends organised for about 550 of William's works, which had been in John's possession, to be stored at the Tate.

"John and his mother had hoped to set up a house museum [including these works], but they never managed to get the funding," said Michael Mitzman, a consultant at legal firm Mishcon de Reya.

"I nagged him [John] to write a will."

But he did not and 430 of these works form part of the estate which is being overseen by Bona Vacantia.

It will be held for another 10 years - some 30 years after John's death - to give any surviving members of the family the chance to make an inheritance claim.

In this case it is highly unlikely. Mr Mitzman could find no eligible relatives. The BBC's Heir Hunters programme drew a blank when searching for direct descendents.

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