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Audrey Hepburn's Sons In A Legal Feud Over Her Personal Belongings

Audrey Hepburn with her pet dog. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
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Audrey Hepburn's sons are apparently in a heated legal dispute over the use of her personal effects and how they are used to raise money for charity. Hepburn had two children: her elder son, Sean Ferrer, with her first husband, actor Mel Ferrer; and Luca Dotti, whom she had with her second husband, psychiatrist Andrea Dotti. After Hepburn's death in 1993 due to cancer, the two half-brothers formed the nonprofit Hollywood for Children to continue the actress' philanthropic legacy. The name of the organization was changed to the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund in 1998, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Using Hepburn's personal belongings and likeness, the fund raises money for a variety of children's organizations and programs. For instance, the nonprofit may host exhibits where various items used or worn by the actress, including several Givenchy gowns, are on display. They also sell various items, including a tote that features Hepburn's signature, t-shirts, books and postcards.

Now, Dotti has filed a claim against his older brother, accusing Ferrer of interfering with the nonprofit's fundraising efforts, Variety reports. The suit states that both sons have an equal share in Hepburn's belongings, but that Ferrer has tried to block the charity from using them.

According to the suit:

Ferrer seeks to entirely control, limit and prohibit the Fund from using the Hepburn IP unless it is willing to pay a significant portion of the fundraising proceeds to a charity of Ferrer's choice, or to simply preclude the Fund from utilizing the Hepburn IP altogether.
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Ferrer had once been the chairman of the organization, but suffered financial mishaps of his own in 2008 and 2009. In 2011, he asked Dotti to join the board. As Dotti became more active, Ferrer became less so, and he later resigned in 2013, the L.A. Times reports.

The suit alleges that at that time, Ferrer stated that the nonprofit was no longer allowed to use Hepburn's image and likeness, and also began interfering with the nonprofit's work through means such as changing their website's domain password; threatening potential exhibitors with legal action; and attempting to convince designer Hubert de Givenchy to write a fake letter that would imply he donated Hepburn's gowns to her children, not the charity. Variety reports that the suit also accuses Ferrer of trying to block Dotti's use of photographs in a cookbook titled Audrey at Home. Additionally, the suit alleges that Ferrer has successfully shut down one planned exhibit in Korea, and delayed another in Australia.

"The saddest part of this is this is being done for children’s charities, to carry on Audrey's work, where her heart lies," Steven Young, a lawyer for the charity, told the Times .