Estate dispute results in $2.3 million in administrative and legal expenses

A recent story about an estate dispute currently before a Northampton County Court in Pennsylvania is a reminder of the massive legal costs the parties involved in estate litigation can incur.

The subject dispute stems from the estates of Peter Karoly and his wife, Dr. Lauren Angstadt. Mr. Karoly and Dr. Angstadt were killed in a private plane crash in 2007 in Massachusetts. They left behind a complex estate consisting of a law practice, a dental practice, real estate holdings, and several medical businesses. The estate was worth an estimated $10 million according to a 2014 accounting.

For over seven years after their deaths the family was involved in an estate dispute centering on whether their wills had been forged by Mr. Karoly’s brother, John Karoly. John was a lawyer. He eventually renounced interest in any inheritance as part of a plea bargain in a criminal investigation that landed him in federal prison for 5 1/2 years for failing to pay income tax and other financial crimes.

Mr. Karoly’s and Dr. Angstadt’s wills were found to be valid after a lengthy trial. Their assets eventually went to their nieces and nephews. All in all, the legal battle resulted in more than $2.3 million in costs.

Beneficiaries set their sights on court-appointed estate administrators

The most recent development in this case has the former law firm of Thomas Wallitsch, the administrator of Mr. Karoly’s estate, objecting to a subpoena by the beneficiaries for various documents. The firm, Norris McLaughin and Marcus, takes the position that the requests are burdensome and intrusive, especially after the beneficiaries were already provided with 4,000 pages of documents related to the estate’s expenses. Approximately 58 lawyers and paralegals from the firm had some involvement in Mr. Karoly’s estate over the lengthy and complex dispute.

The beneficiaries are taking the position that the firm is refusing to provide the records because they will reveal the unreasonableness of more than $850,000 paid by the estate. Furthermore, it is alleged that Norris and McLaughlin ran amok with their billings.

Norris McLaughin and Marcus and the beneficiaries have accused each other of bad faith. It is unclear how this dispute will be resolved. Nonetheless it is a stark reminder to all parties involved in estate litigation that legal costs can rapidly accrue.

More on this story here.