One of the largest estate cases in Pennsylvania history took another legal turn in November. It’s an example of how complicated an estate can be, especially one involving a real estate mogul, multiple beneficiaries and $15 billion worth of real estate assets. The litigation has gone on for about thirteen years.
Real Estate Empire at Issue
Samuel Rappaport and Richard Basciano were partners in a real estate empire. According to a Philadelphia Inquirer article,
Richard Basciano and the late Samuel A. Rappaport were friends, business partners, and slumlords. Both rose from humble beginnings to become real estate speculators extraordinaire. They scooped up blighted properties in Philadelphia and sat on them for years while the structures crumbled, eventually selling them at huge markups to be developed by others.
Rappaport died in 1994. His will mandated that there be three executors for his estate, including his attorney, a personal friend and Basciano. The friend declined to serve and the attorney was forced to resign. Basciano operated as the sole executor for the estate.
Thirteen Years of Litigation Results in Decision for Basciano
During Rappaport’s life, Basciano was friends with his family members. That changed, as it often does, when he became the executor and family members disagreed over the handling of estate assets.
The beneficiaries of Rappaport’s estate brought legal claims against Basciano. The case involves challenges to dozens of real estate and stock transactions during the former executor’s eight year administration of the estate. Beneficiaries sought in excess of $60 million in connection with claims of waste, mismanagement and self-dealing.
A four-week non-jury trial was held in 2009 in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, Orphans’ Court Division. In August 2010 an adjudication was issued finding in favor of the beneficiaries and former co-executors, and against Basciano, on the majority of the Objections (claims) lodged against them.
The Superior Court in November 2013 reversed part of the Orphans’ Court’s decision that ordered the former executor to return commercial property and stock to the Estate, ruling against nearly all of the beneficiaries’ claims. It also reversed the Orphans’ Court’s decision to award the beneficiaries millions of dollars in legal fees.
This decision by the Superior Court represents a vindication of the work of the former executor on behalf of Rappaport’s estate, according to Basciano’s lawyer, who portrays his client as successfully transforming a nearly bankrupt business to a flourishing real estate empire.
We do estate planning, including the creation of trusts and wills, so that the desires of our clients as to how their assets should be handled and distributed after their deaths can be carried out. We can also help with probate and estate administration.
With open communication by all parties, well crafted legal instruments and a competent executor or executrix, your estate should not become the legal mess that the Rappaport estate has become.
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If you want to discuss planning for your estate, are responsible for an estate or are a beneficiary and you believe an estate is being mismanaged, contact our office for a free consultation.