Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Siblings feud over Wyatt estate

First they fought among themselves, now with lawyer

By The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE - The adult children of Wilson Wyatt Sr., former Louisville mayor and lieutenant governor, are fighting a bitter battle in Jefferson Circuit Court over the estate of Mr. Wyatt's widow.

        Anne Duncan Wyatt died April 7, 2001. Her last will and testament calls for a three-way split of her assets between her two daughters - Nancy Zorn and Mary Anne Wyatt - and her son, Wilson Wyatt Jr.

        The bickering began two years before Mrs. Wyatt's death - in early 1999. The executor of the estate, Martin Duffy, noticed that Ms. Zorn, who had her mother's power of attorney, had made “certain dubious transactions” worth $66,000 using her mother's money, documents show.

        The problem was resolved when Ms. Zorn, who lives in Louisville, promised not to misuse any more money and Anne Duncan Wyatt made “equalizing distributions” to her other two children.

        But a review by the executor of Anne Wyatt's finances in 2000 allegedly showed that Ms. Zorn had diverted an additional $140,000 to $160,000 of her mother's money. It included about $100,000 in ATM withdrawals, a $30,000 charge to Anne Wyatt's Burger's Super Market account and more than $1,500 of charges to a CVS pharmacy account.

        Wilson Wyatt Jr. and Mary Anne Wyatt then filed suit in Jefferson Disability Court to declare their mother disabled and have a guardian appointed. At age 94, their mother suffered from “increasingly severe dementia, poor hearing, poor eyesight” and required assistance to walk or eat. She required 24-hour nursing service that cost $117,360 a year.

        The siblings claimed in an affidavit that Ms. Zorn had “misappropriated funds at an accelerating pace due to gambling debts, placing (their mother) in a very precarious financial situation.”

        Ms. Zorn's Louisville attorney, James Worthington, said his client denies the allegations.

        Her power of attorney was removed, however, and a guardian was appointed for Anne Wyatt on Sept. 7, 2000. That arrangement continued until Anne Wyatt's death.

        In Mrs. Wyatt's will, the portion allocated for Ms. Zorn was to be placed in a trust that would make payment to her “in quarterly or more frequent installments.” Each child would also receive $10,000 “as a reminder to them of my love, affection and admiration of each of them.” She also left $5,000 for each of her six grandchildren and Mary Hunter, her “faithful employee of many years.”

        About two months before their mother's death, the children reached an agreement covering several aspects of how their mother's estate would be distributed.

        By January, it had dissolved and Mr. Duffy asked a judge to intervene.

        In another lawsuit, Mary Anne Wyatt has asked Mr. Duffy be removed as the executor.

        Ms. Wyatt said Mr. Duffy had shown “unreasonable and unjustified hostility” toward her and caused “extensive damage and irretrievable breakage to family heirlooms.”

        Mary Anne Wyatt also questioned a $64,000 legal bill filed against her mother's estate by Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, a law firm Mr. Wyatt Sr. co-founded. The hourly rate charged by the law firm ranged from $120 to $250 an hour.

        In a response to Mary Anne Wyatt's petition, Mr. Duffy said her allegations were “replete with half-truths, argumentative assertions and actual falsehoods.”

        Yet another claim to some of the money came from Frederick Tucker, a former aide of Mr. Wyatt Sr.

        Mr. Tucker, who worked for Mr. Wyatt during his term as lieutenant governor from 1959 to 1963, said both Wilson Wyatt Sr. and Anne Wyatt made an oral agreement with him worth $100,000.

        After being injured in a taxi owned by a major contributor to Mr. Wyatt's campaign, Mr. Tucker agreed not to sue in exchange for $60,000 to be paid by Mr. Wyatt.

        After more time in the hospital, Mr. Tucker said, Mr. And Mrs. Wyatt agreed to increase the unpaid debt to $100,000.

        The debt was put on the “back burner” after Mr. Wyatt experienced financial and political problems in the late 1960s, Mr. Tucker said.


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- Siblings feud over Wyatt estate