Legal Issues and Simon Property Group and Mel Simon and Law and Real Estate & Retail

Bren Simon deposition sheds light on family feud

July 29, 2010
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A Hamilton County judge is scheduled to hear final arguments Thursday over whether Bren Simon should remain as trustee for her late husband's roughly $2 billion estate.

The courtroom battle over the estate of the mall billionaire Melvin Simon earlier this month provided the most public glimpse yet into a long-simmering feud among members of one of the city's wealthiest and most prominent families.

Attorneys for Bren's stepchildren on July 15 played parts of a more than five-hour video deposition Bren gave on March 9, in which she says her stepchildren have been “cruel, insensitive and hurtful on a fairly regular basis” since she joined the family. (View several clips from the deposition below.)

Bren Simon described her stepchildren Deborah Simon and her siblings Cynthia Simon-Skjodt and David Simon, the chairman and CEO of Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, as spoiled and vicious, and said they refused to accept her as family despite her best efforts during 37 years of marriage.

The stepchildren are challenging last-minute changes to the will that give Bren most of Melvin's estate. Deborah contends her father was suffering from dementia and didn’t understand what he was doing when he revised his estate plan, boosting the share of his fortune going directly to Bren from one-third to one-half.

The changes also wiped out a portion that was to go to Deborah and her siblings from Melvin’s earlier marriage and left charitable gifts stipulated in prior versions to Bren’s discretion. Bren, who married Mel in 1972, contends the changes fully reflected his wishes.

During hearings on July 15 and July 16, Hamilton Superior Court Judge William J. Hughes listened to attorneys for both sides present arguments on whether Bren should remain as trustee over the estate.

Attorneys for Bren argued she has served capably as trustee to date and should remain in the position, while attorneys for her stepchildren argue she is unqualified because of her hostility toward them and her lack of financial acumen.

The court is scheduled to hear final arguments on the trustee issue at 1 p.m. A jury trial in the case is tentatively scheduled for September 2011.

Here are a few video highlights from Bren Simon's deposition:







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