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Katz Sapper caught up in Simon estate battle

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The Carmel accounting firm that has handled work for Simon family members and their companies for decades has become ensnared in the legal battle over Mel Simon’s fortune.

At a court hearing Friday morning in Hamilton County, Katz Sapper & Miller objected to subpoenas it received in February from Melvin’s daughter Deborah, saying the information requested was far too broad.

The search terms included in the subpoenas would yield more than 160,000 pages of tax documents, information that then would have to be reviewed to protect confidential information, said Richard Dick, an attorney for Katz Sapper and its KSM Business Services unit.

The requests also would force the firm to review every work station for deleted files and review archived data stored on computer tapes. Reviewing a single month of tapes would take 39 hours, Dick said.

“It is way beyond anything that could be considered reasonable,” Dick told Judge William Hughes.

Deborah in January sued Melvin’s widow, Bren Simon, contesting changes to Mel's estate plan he signed in March 2009, seven months before his death at age 82. The revisions substantially increased the share of his fortune earmarked for Bren.

The two sides have brawled over nearly every aspect of the case since. During Friday’s hearing, Jack Hittle, an attorney for Deborah, agreed to exclude the backed up data. But he said producing the tax records was not overly burdensome, especially considering all the profits Simon work has generated for the firm over the years.

“They are a sophisticated outfit,” Hittle said. “They should be able to produce these documents.”

Katz Sapper had estimated that producing and reviewing the 160,000 pages of tax records would cost the firm $100,000, and going through the backed up records might add $70,000 in expense.

Judge Hughes did not rule during the hearing, but indicated he likely would require Deborah to pay and require she provide $100,000 to the court clerk as security.

The legal battle has been awkward for Katz Sapper. In addition to handling financial affairs for Melvin and Bren, the firm has done work for Deborah and her brother, David, CEO of Simon Property Group. Further, one of the witnesses to the signing of the estate plan now being challenged was Bruce Jacobson, a retired Katz Sapper partner.

Deborah contends her father was suffering from dementia and didn’t understand what he was doing when he revised the plan, boosting the share of his fortune going directly to Bren from one-third to one-half. Bren, 67, who had been married to Melvin since 1972, contends the changes fully reflected his wishes.

Melvin Simon was one of Indiana’s richest men. Forbes magazine in March 2009 estimated his net worth at $1.3 billion. Shares of Simon Property, his principal holding, have zoomed higher since, perhaps pushing the value of his fortune past $2 billion.

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  • Charities will suffer
    The money will not go to civic commitments if Bren wins-- it will be put on hold for years till her death and charities will lose money they counted on from the Simons- Mel & Bren. She is doing a 180 turn once Mel died- not being civic anymore. Give the disputed amount directly to charities- then good organizations and hurting people win.
  • Be Real and the charities will suffer
    The articles indicate that a lot of the money was set up to go to charities originally and on a schedule to begin right after his death. If Bren wins, the money will not go to the charities automatically till after her death, which could be in 10-20 years, or even longer- with all those charities suffering during that time. She was also giving more money in the "new will" to her daughter from a previous marriage, and that is at the expense of Mel's "blood children" and his grandchildren from them, too. Does not seem right--and Herb Simon would know if his brother wanted to change those details as they were always pretty close in business. But you do not see herb's name mentioned nor has he been subpoenaed. Hope this ends peacefully, as Mel did so much for his communities here in central Indiana.
  • Who wins!
    The lawyers and accountants are the only REAL winners in cases like these!
  • golddugger
    Bren,

    Dont be greedy your husband has the money sit up for the charities,Why are you makeing these people waiting? what so bad one of the charities set up for your son. you remine me the late mrs. helmsley.I cant believe you bull husband change the will that is so low I hope you can live with your self.
  • Exactly
    That is exactly what Deborah and David want is that their father and the benefactor to many charities should have his wishes granted and certainly the children should not be redacted out of a Will by a Greedy Widow....
  • Can they really spend it all?
    These types of cases always sound so frustrating to those of us who know that no matter who wins -- they can't spend it all?!? Perhaps, the civic commitment demonstrated by Mrs. Simon and her late husband should be honored and used as an example for the children :)!!!!

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