ROCKLAND — The Maine attorney general has the legal authority to demand a detailed accounting of the estate of the world-renowned artist Robert Indiana, the Knox County probate judge has ruled.

Judge Carol Emery issued her ruling on Wednesday.

Emery has yet to rule on the estate’s request to hold off on the accounting until lawsuits involving the estate are settled. She has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 3 to determine a timetable to hear arguments on the stay request.

Emery heard arguments online on Jan. 13 at the request of the Maine Attorney General’s Office. The office has voiced concern that the legal fees being incurred by the estate threaten the viability of the Star of Hope Foundation, which will receive the proceeds from Indiana’s estate.

Attorney Sigmund Schutz of Portland, who represents the estate’s personal representative – attorney James Brannan of Rockland – told Emery at the hearing that the estate will not sell off any more artwork or use any additional artwork as collateral for loans unless approved by the court.

Schutz said he expects there is enough money on hand to pay for legal expenses through April, by which time he expects settlements in the remaining litigation.

In addition, Schutz said the estate’s work is expected to increase its value from $90 million to more than $100 million.

The Attorney General’s Office, however, has been adamant that a review of the compensation paid to attorneys and the personal representative should no longer be delayed.

The estate has incurred $8.5 million in legal expenses and associated fees since Indiana’s death in May 2019. In addition, the personal representative has billed the estate for $1.45 million, of which about $1 million has already been paid.

“The Estate has little to no cash and has been selling valuable works of Mr. Indiana’s art to pay those fees,” said a Jan. 4 motion filed in Knox County Probate Court by Assistant Attorney General Linda Conti. “The Attorney General remains concerned that the very existence of the Foundation is threatened by the liquidation of Estate assets and therefore again urges close review of all fees to ensure that only those fees that are strictly necessary and reasonable are allowed to deplete Estate assets meant for charity.”

Indiana’s will – which he signed in May 2016 – left nearly his entire estate to support the nonprofit foundation Star of Hope Inc., which will turn his Vinalhaven home and studio into a museum.

Schutz had argued the attorney general’s oversight authority over charities did not extend to estates just because a charity is named as a beneficiary. Emery said state law is clear that the attorney general does have such oversight.

Indiana died May 19, 2018, at the age of 89 from heart problems at his home, named Star of Hope, on Vinalhaven.

The estate became mired in lawsuits even before Indiana’s death. A federal lawsuit filed by the Morgan Art Foundation in New York the day before Indiana died accused Indiana’s former caretaker, Jamie L. Thomas, and Michael McKenzie of American Image Art of isolating and exploiting Indiana, forging his art and exhibiting some of the forgery in museums. They have denied those claims. Those cases are unresolved.

Schutz noted in his filing that the complex litigation in New York with Morgan Art has generated most of the estate’s legal expenses, but that is nearing a resolution. A lawsuit between Thomas and the estate has been settled. No terms were revealed.

Schutz said Brannan can detail every penny spent by the estate and defend each expense.

Indiana moved to Vinalhaven in 1978, converting a former Victorian-style building that previously served as the Odd Fellows Lodge into his home and studio.

Indiana is best known for his iconic LOVE image.


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