Chris Proffitt/Eyewitness NewsHamilton County - A legal battle is brewing over one of Indiana's biggest family fortunes. The daughter of the late shopping center tycoon Mel Simon is challenging changes to her father's will that gives hundred of millions of dollars more to her stepmother and cuts of million to Indianapolis charities.
The complaint, filed last week in a Hamilton County court, is a glimpse into the private lives of a public family and the upcoming legal battle over the fortune of its patriarch.
82-year-old shopping center tycoon Mel Simon left an estate valued at $1.3 billion upon his death in September. But according to court documents, one of Simon's three children, Deborah Simon, accused her father's second wife, Bren, of coercing her ill husband nearly a year ago into signing a new estate plan that, in effect, gives her everything.
Deborah Simon contends the changes essentially eliminate all charitable donations Mel Simon made in his previous will, including $10 million to the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis and many other organizations.
The complaint alleges that Mel Simon was so ill that he was unable to sign the new will and trust agreement himself and that someone had to move his hand as he allegedly signed both documents.
"This is going to be a huge legal battle that will take years to resolve," said Andrew Mayoras, attorney and author.
Andrew Mayoras is an attorney and author of the book, "Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights." He says the burden of proof in the case falls on Mel Simon's daughter Deborah.
"Most states, including Indiana, the courts presume the will or trust was valid unless the person challenging can bring forth very specific and concrete information that he didn't know who his family was, what his property was and how his family treated him and that's a high burden to meet," Mayoras said.
Legal experts call these high-profile legal battles the dirty laundry of the wealthy and deceased played out in public and there are few like the upcoming fight over Mel Simon's riches.
Deborah Simon we have a saying, "You snooze, you lose" sorry that you fell sleep at the wheel now it looks like legal man will be the beneficiary, they call families like yours "Dysfunctional" they waited all their lives for an opportunity like this. The legal profession thrives, they live for this.
Because this is a very common occurrence there are those out there that are calling for protocols to protect the elders from becoming caught in the crossfire that is often fatal to a frail older person.
To implement guidelines and protocol that would prevent this from happening would be a simple matter (if) the resolve was there and (if) this wasn't a cottage industry that spins off un quantifiable benefits to an array of personnel that are involved with the dispute and that in likelihood will provide benefits for a lot of persons, not withstanding the intended legal heirs for many years to come.....
Deborah although it might be a bit late for you as it was for me, but for others out there with
older parents, please take our experience as a warning, I wish someone would have warned me as I am warning you.
All it takes is one fall, one visit to the hospital, chances are if your parents have some money saved up, they are in someone's watch list. Someone who is just waiting for the right opportunity to present itself, and that it does in ways un expecting and naive family members seldom expect.
Rule of Thumb: The general rule is once the elder becomes frail , affected by old age, dementia, Alzheimer, he is fair game and the first one to get to him gets the loot! If he is willing to share it with an army of personnel that specialize is this type of scam, there will be plenty of help in disqualifying the legitimate heirs and making sure the original intent of the Testator is muddled beyond recognition....
Deborah, it looks like you will be spending a good portion of the rest of your life in court! We wish you luck ..