AUGUSTA — Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey announced Monday, Jan. 24 he reached a resolution of all claims against the personal representative of the estate of Robert Indiana and four law firms hired by the personal representative.

The Attorney General filed a claim in Knox County Probate Court alleging the personal representative paid excessive fees to himself and the law firms he hired. According to the Attorney General, the overall value of the settlement totals more than $2 million, the bulk of which was paid by the firms collectively in refunds and credits.

Attorney James Brannan of Rockland, who is the personal representative, issued a statement on Monday after the AG’s release.

“I disagree with the Attorney General’s allegations, but I’m pleased to put an end to the dispute.  I will remain as Personal Representative of the Estate and will continue to fulfill my promise to Robert Indiana that I would administer his Estate. The Estate was valued at $90 million when Mr. Indiana died.  My efforts and excellent work by my lawyers recovered an additional $80 million for the benefit of the charity I helped Mr. Indiana create, Star of Hope — an extraordinary result.  On top of that, all of the many multi-million dollar lawsuits against the Estate have been dismissed, except for one.  The one remaining claim involves Michael McKenzie. Once that remaining claim is resolved, I will file a final accounting and inventory with the probate court to close the Estate,” Brannan stated.

Robert Indiana, a renowned contemporary artist best known for his stacked LOVE image, died at his home on Vinalhaven in May 2018. Since Indiana’s death, his estate, administered by the personal representative, has been party to copyright and production rights litigation with longtime business partner Morgan Art Foundation, and another business associate, Michael McKenzie, doing business as American Image Art. The Attorney General sued the personal representative in November 2020 to reduce the fees he had paid himself and his law firms related to those lawsuits, which totaled more than $6 million at that time. By the time of these settlements, the combined fees exceeded $10 million.

The Attorney General brought the claims against the personal representative and the law firms in his capacity as overseer of charitable assets because the sole beneficiary of the Estate, the Star of Hope Inc., is a charitable organization.

“Every dollar going unnecessarily to pay lawyers and the personal representative was another dollar unavailable to the charity to fulfill its mission and Robert Indiana’s vision,” Attorney General Frey said in the news release. “This office is pleased our work preserved significant resources to be used for the benefit of the Star of Hope, Inc.” Mr. Indiana established the nonprofit during his lifetime to restore his residence on Vinalhaven (the “Star of Hope,” a former Odd Fellows hall located on Main Street) to be used as a museum for his collection and an art education center.

The lawsuit with Morgan Art Foundation is now over. The lawsuit with McKenzie/American Image Art is being handled by lawyers for Star of Hope Inc. “We are pleased that the finalization of the estate is on the horizon and that the Star of Hope can now focus on its future with more certainty and financial security,” Frey said in the news release.