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Court of Appeals upholds Miller estate decision

September 30, 2010

The Indiana Court of Appeals has sided with former Columbus, Ind., banker Will Miller in an estate battle launched by his older brother, Hugh.

In an opinion issued Thursday, the court said Will Miller was correct to spend more than $20 million over 3-1/2 years on the upkeep of properties owned by the wealthy Columbus family.

The brothers are heirs to a fortune built over generations through the defunct Irwin Union Bank and Trust and diesel engine-maker Cummins Inc. Their parents, J. Irwin and Xenia Miller, were major philanthropists, noted for bringing world-reknowned modern art and architecture to their hometown.

The court's opinion led off with a quote from "The Tempest" by William Shakespeare: "What's past is prologue..." The line speaks to the question of whether Will and family financial adviser Sarla Kalsi, as Xenia's personal representatives, properly interpreted her wishes. Xenia was incompetent when J. Irwin died in 2004, but Will and Kalsi continued to spend huge sums on the upkeep of family properties, which they argued was in keeping with the Millers' long-established practice.

Hugh Miller contested the estate's spending in Bartholomew Superior Court. He argued that $2.7 million of the spending was more to the benefit of Will and Kalsi than Xenia, who died in 2008. The lower court sided with Will Miller, going so far as to grant payment of his attorney fees. Hugh appealed.

Although it upheld the lower court's ruling on the estate spending, the appellate court reversed the decision on attorney fees, saying Hugh's claim was not frivolous.

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