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What’s the Latest on Battle over Probate Estate of Argentina’s Beloved Author?

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Written by Troy Werner

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POSTED ON: August 25, 2023

The rights to the works of the late Jorge Luis Borges, considered Argentina’s most internationally significant author of the 20th century, have fallen into limbo because his widow died last month without a will.

The news about the probate estate of Argentina’s most famous author surprised the country’s literary circles because the late Jorge Luis Borges’ wife, Maria Kodama, devoted much of her life to fiercely protecting his legacy. She set up a foundation under his name. However, it didn’t detail plans for what should happen after she died, even though she was battling breast cancer, reports San Diego Union-Tribune’s recent article entitled, “Future of Borges estate in limbo as widow doesn’t leave will.”

“If there really is no will, it’s surprising,” said Santiago Llach, a writer who is a specialist on Borges’ work. He said the announcement by Kodama’s longtime lawyer, Fernando Soto, that there was no will “generated buzz on social media and elsewhere.”

Borges died in 1986 at age 86 and left Kodama, a translator, and writer whom he had married earlier that year, as his only heir. They never had children, and she passed away on March 26, also aged 86.

A day after Soto made his announcement, five of Kodama’s nephews hired probate lawyers and went to probate court to declare themselves her heirs, looking to get ownership of all of her possessions, including the rights to Borges’ works and what are thought to be several valuable manuscripts. Soto said he did not know that Kodama hadn’t arranged for a will to be drawn up.

“She didn’t like to talk about those issues,” the probate lawyer added. “She didn’t talk about her death.”

Soto said he once asked Kodama about what would happen with Borges’ rights after her death.  “She told me she had everything arranged, and it would be ‘someone stricter than me.’”

He recalled that Kodama said she would call on universities in Japan and the United States to “take care of the works,” but didn’t say what schools she had in mind.

Soto noted that she often gave lectures at both Harvard University and the University of Texas.

Soto said he was “surprised to find out she had nephews,” adding that “it was a big relief because I didn’t want the state to keep everything.”

According to Argentine law, the state takes over the estate if there’s no will and no natural heirs.

Probate laws are different internationally, and even different between states in the US. However, the general goal to avoid probate court is universal. If you need help in setting up your estate plan to avoid probate, or if you are dealing with a probate case, we are always happy to help.  Our probate lawyers in Los Angeles can guide you through California's probate process.

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Reference: San Diego Union-Tribune (April 5, 2023) “Future of Borges estate in limbo as widow doesn’t leave will”

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