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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Settlement ends contest over will of builder of Minnesota malls

A judge recently approved a settlement in a three year long dispute over the estate of the man behind the development of shopping malls throughout the Midwest, including St. Paul and other parts of Minnesota. Melvin Simon, who founded the Simon Property Group, died at age 82 in 2009. Since his death, the mall developer's estate has been at the center of a bitter will contest involving his daughter, her stepmother and the estate's court appointed trustee.

As is often the case, the will litigation centered on claims that the stepmother exercised undue influence over the mall magnate during a time when he was ill and particularly vulnerable. A revised will, executed just seven months before the man's death, reduced the share of his estate passing to his three children while increased the stepmother's share of the inheritance

In addition to stock holdings that have nearly doubled in value since the start of the litigation, seats on the company's board of directors also hinged upon the outcome. With issues of corporate governance on the line, the company itself intervened in the lawsuit to settle the disposition of untradeable stock shares tied up in the estate.

Details of the family's settlement agreement are being kept under wraps, but a statement from the family's holding company confirmed that the founder's family will retain four seats on the development company's board. The settlement may provide the greatest relief to a number of charities in the founder's native city that have been waiting three years to receive the gifts dedicated to them by the founder's will.

Source: indystar.com, "Melvin Simon heirs settle estate feud," Jeff Swiatek, Dec. 12, 2012

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