State holds off justification for expenses with artist's estate

By Stephen Betts | Feb 03, 2020

Rockland — The Maine Attorney General's Office has withdrawn its request to the Knox County Probate Court for additional details to be provided on the nearly $4 million in legal fees billed to the estate of world-renowned artist Robert Indiana.

Assistant Attorney General Linda Conti said Monday, Feb. 3, that the petition for a review of compensation will be filed again once the probate case is concluded. The Attorney General's Office had initially filed the request Jan. 6.

The assistant attorney general contended in the initial filing that the information provided thus far lists the names of law firms, but no additional details. The state argues that the same lack of detail was included in the fees from the personal representative.

"Fees of this order of magnitude should not be simply paid from estate assets (ultimately charitable assets) without appropriate review by interested parties and this court for reasonableness," the AG's motion stated.

The AG is involved in the estate case because the agency has oversight over disbursing funds for charitable organizations.

Indiana's will -- signed by Indiana in May 2016 -- left nearly his entire estate to support the not-for-profit organization Star of Hope Inc., which will turn his home and studio into a museum.

The estate is valued at nearly $100 million.

Indiana died May 19, 2018, at the age of 89 from heart problems at his home named Star of Hope on the Penobscot Bay island of Vinalhaven.

Jamie L. Thomas of Vinalhaven will run the museum, per the will.

Thomas and the estate had been battling in state court. Thomas wants the estate to cover his legal expenses while the estate claims that Thomas, who served as a caretaker for Indiana, took advantage of the elderly artist before his death.

A federal lawsuit filed by the Morgan Art Foundation in New York May 18, 2018 -- the day before Indiana died -- accuses Thomas and Michael McKenzie of isolating and exploiting Indiana, forging his art and exhibiting some of the forgery in museums.

Thomas has denied those allegations.

Those issues remain unresolved in state and federal courts.

Attorney James Brannan of Rockland, the personal representative for Indiana's estate, filed an account of expenses Dec. 2 in an effort to be completely transparent. Approval of that accounting is also on hold until the case is completed.

This is the largest estate handled in the Knox County Probate Court.

The law firm of Hogan Lovells LLP, based in London and Washington, D.C. has been paid $1,562,040. The law firm of Venable LLP, based in Washington, D.C., has been paid $1,397,611. Pierce Atwood LLP of Portland has been paid $211,907, Preti Flaherty of Portland has been paid $96,303, LeBlanc and Young LLP of Portland has been paid $16,128, and Attorney Kelly Mellenthin has been paid $645.

Brannan has been paid $550,000 as personal representative, which includes expenses he incurred for the estate.

In addition to the legal fees, Pinkerton Security was paid about $211,000 for security for the artwork and properties.

The cost for appraisal and relocation of the artwork totaled $387,000 with the largest amount going to estate appraiser Bruce Gamage Jr., who was paid $284,616.

Rental storage costs totaled $112,000.

Miscellaneous expenses in maintaining the house totaled $115,000, including $72,000 for roof work.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Feb 03, 2020 18:51

Sounds like Charles Dicken's "Bleak House."



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