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Maine Attorney General settles suit with Robert Indiana's estate, attorneys

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey sued the representative of Indiana's estate, alleging he paid himself, attorneys excessive fees

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey announced Monday that the state has settled a lawsuit with the personal representative of the estate of artist Robert Indiana for more than $2 million.

Indiana, best known for his "Love'' image, died in May 2018 at his Vinalhaven home. He left his entire estate to the charitable organization Star of Hope Inc., established by Indiana to restore his Vinalhaven home to be used as a museum and arts education center.

The personal representative of his estate, James W. Brannan of Rockland, has been entangled in litigation with two associates of Indiana's, Morgan Art Foundation and Michael McKenzie, doing business as American Image Art.

In November 2020, Frey sued in Knox County Probate Court for a review of the "reasonableness of compensation" of Brannan and four attorneys hired to represent him.

RELATED: Maine AG intends to demand overpayments from Robert Indiana estate

In a release Monday, Frey said the fees exceeded $6 million and claimed Brannan was selling art by Indiana that Star of Hope "views ... as critically important to its charitable mission" to pay the costs.

Those fees exceed $10 million at this point, Frey said.

He said the settlement of more than $2 million was mostly paid by the legal firms in the form of refunds and credits.

According to court documents, Brannan is represented by attorneys at Preti Flaherty, Drummond Woodsum & MacMahon, and Eaton Peabody, among others.

“Every dollar going unnecessarily to pay lawyers and the Personal Representative was another dollar unavailable to the charity to fulfill its mission and Robert Indiana’s vision,” Frey said in the release. “This office is pleased our work preserved significant resources to be used for the benefit of the Star of Hope, Inc.”

The settlement ends the suit against Morgan Art Foundation.

Through his attorney, Sigmund Schutz of Preti Flaherty, Brannan released the following statement Monday afternoon:

"I disagree with the Attorney General’s allegations, but I’m pleased to put an end to the dispute. I will remain as Personal Representative of the Estate and will continue to fulfill my promise to Robert Indiana that I would administer his Estate. The Estate was valued at $90 million when Mr. Indiana died. My efforts and excellent work by my lawyers recovered an additional $80 million for the benefit of the charity I helped Mr. Indiana create, Star of Hope—an extraordinary result. On top of that, all of the many multi-million dollar lawsuits against the Estate have been dismissed, except for one. The one remaining claim involves Michael McKenzie. Once that remaining claim is resolved, I will file a final accounting and inventory with the probate court to close the Estate.”

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