Beloved photographer Bill Cunningham recorded both street styles and high society for decades.
Bill Cunningham’s photos for The New York Times often included a group of regulars, one of whom has claimed that his will has been fudged, according to the New York Post’s Page Six in “Muses claim Bill Cunningham’s will was ‘fudged.’” Whether the claim is founded or not, no one in the group was named in the will, so according to Page Six, they won’t be able to challenge it in court.
Lebenthal was photographed by Cunningham regularly. She says that Cunningham, who died in June 2016 at 87, asked her for estate planning advice in 2014 and 2015. Lebenthal told the newspaper, “Bill came in and gave me his will, I saw it … A year later, there’s this totally different will.”
Lebenthal noticed that the will she saw did not mention Cunningham’s photographic archives. She raised concerns when he told her that he just wanted to have his collection thrown away. She claims to have then discussed his donating the photos to the New York Historical Society.
In a 2014 handwritten letter, Cunningham wrote Lebenthal, “Thank you for caring about all that end of life stuff … I have to start the process.”
In December 2015 he wrote, “Thank you for your [letters] to help me put my affairs in order. I have put off to [sic] long but must do it now … doing it would give me peace of mind.”
The New York Post reported in August 2016, that when Cunningham passed away, he had a 2010 will that named a niece and an attorney as executors. The will stipulated that his valuable catalog of photos and negatives was to go to his niece. However, Cunningham had also filed a 1993 will with New York Surrogate’s Court for safekeeping.
Lebenthal and her group have hired an investigator to look into the will on file and claims that there are many things that don’t add up. She claims that the new will had suspicious “smudge marks” from alleged water damage, inconsistent “stapler marks” and a notary stamp she believes to be “fishy.”
Bill Cunningham was an institution in New York City, and Lebenthal told Page Six that she loved him like a father. Attorney Richard S. Peskin, a co-executor of the 2010 will, declined to comment on the story and says that he has not heard from Lebenthal.
Reference: Page Six (December 13, 2016) “Muses claim Bill Cunningham’s will was ‘fudged’”