Melvin Simon’s daughter Deborah filed court papers Thursday afternoon charging her father was coerced into approving
a new estate plan in February 2009 that dramatically increased the amount of his fortune going to her stepmother, Bren.
The will contest, filed in Hamilton County Superior Court, alleges that “Melvin was so ill that he was unable
to sign either the new will or trust agreement himself, necessitating someone to hold a pen in Melvin’s hand and move
his hand as he allegedly ‘signed’ both documents.”
Melvin Simon, co-founder of Simon Property
Group, died Sept. 16 at age 82. He had pancreatic cancer and, according to court papers, was suffering from dementia and neurological
disorders “that impaired his language, reading, writing, cognition, memory and understanding.”
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.
Melvin had been married to Bren, his second wife, since 1972. Deborah Simon is one of
Melvin’s children from his first marriage. The other surviving children are
Cynthia Simon Skjodt and David Simon, the chairman and CEO of Simon Property Group.
Melvin also adopted Tamme, Bren’s daughter from her first marriage.
legal filings say the new estate plan provided hundreds of millions
of dollars more to Bren than Melvin previously had intended and effectively wiped out the share
that was to have gone to the children of his first wife, Bess.
The court filings
charge Bren manipulated her husband for her own financial benefit and that her “unlawful”
actions were facilitated by a team of professionals. Those included Krieg DeVault partner Eric Manterfield,
who represented Bren as executor of the estate, and Bruce Jacobson, an accountant who was a longtime
financial adviser to Melvin and Bren. Manterfield declined to comment. Jacobson and a Baltimore attorney representing
Bren did not immediately respond to messages Friday afternoon.
According to the filings, prior
to last February’s changes, Melvin’s estate plan divided assets into these three equal portions: