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Thomas Hart Benton, Chilmark Landscape, 1922.
Thomas Hart Benton, Chilmark Landscape, 1922.

Thomas Hart Benton Heirs Sue Missouri Bank for Mismanagement of Artist’s Estate

Jessie Benton, daughter of the American regionalist Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975), has filed a lawsuit against Kansas City’s UMB Bank this week, accusing it of mismanaging Benton’s multimillion-dollar estate and leaving more than one hundred artworks from the estate unaccounted for. The bank’s practices, she alleges, “have resulted in an excess of millions of dollars in damages to the Benton Trusts.”

“The family and Jessie are obviously devastated,” Boyda told Artnet News. “They trusted UMB bank to care for the estate and take the appropriate action needed, and that trust was broken.” Before his death, Benton entrusted his estate to the bank’s management, with his children as its beneficiaries. R. Crosby Kember Jr., UMB’s late chairman and cofounder of the Kemper Museum of Art, was a major collector of Benton’s work.

According to her lawyer Andrew Boyda, Benton claims that when she visited the estate in 2015, “the collection had been moved from the climate controlled vault to a safety deposit box vault.” Benton asserts the family was charged hundreds of thousands of dollars for the construction of the climate-controlled storage units, only to discover that they were not being used. She also argues that the bank withheld information about the estate’s holdings, sales, and appraisal value.

“While we would like nothing more than to address these matters publicly, it is, however, against our company policy to comment on pending litigation,” reads a written statement provided by UMB Bank to KCTV5 News. “UMB values the relationships with individuals and families for whom it has the privilege of providing trust management services. We take our role as a trustee for art and other assets seriously and will directly address and defend the misguided allegations made in the lawsuit.”