NEW YORK, Dec. 5 2004 – LAWFUEL – First for law, legal, law firm news — Michael Stern, one of three grown children of the late violinist Isaac Stern, received a call one day from a friend who told him that a Web site was auctioning off several rare
instruments and, “It’s your dad’s stuff,” reports Senior Writer Charles
Gasparino in the current issue of Newsweek. Michael couldn’t believe what he
was hearing. “That’s not possible,” he said.
Michael Stern, the music director of the Kansas City Symphony, his
brother, David; and their sister, Shira, soon discovered more about the
handling of their father’s estate: the executor was paying himself more than
$300,000 in fees and transferring assets to Stern’s third wife, Gasparino
reports. The case was filed in probate court in New Milford, Conn. and it has
remained out of the public eye until now. Stern’s children spoke for the
first time publicly about the case to Newsweek.
The children are suing the former executor, William Moorhead, for $2.25
million. They claim that his friendship with the third wife Linda Reynolds
Stern led him to cut the children out of their father’s estate money, as well
as violins, memorabilia and family photos and not pay off a debt their father
owed to a family friend. Michael says that he and his siblings are not in it
for the money. “We won’t let our father’s name be dishonored,” he says in the
December 13 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, December 6). Moorhead
declined to comment on any aspect of the story, Gasparino reports.
The children’s lawyer, Mark D. Schwartz, said in a court transcript that
Moorhead was “manipulated by Ms. Stern and her greed.” Stern’s children
believed their father’s assets were worth about $12 million. But Moorhead,
they say, told them he left far less, and not enough to cover debts. One
reason for the discrepancy, the children say: Moorhead allowed a transfer of
certain assets, including a $3.5 million apartment on Central Park West in New
York, to Linda. Moorhead claims in court documents that Isaac decided “to put
the apartment in Linda’s name” shortly before he died. Shira recently said in
court that her father had promised the children the apartment.
he children also take issue with the way they believe Moorhead managed
many items left by their father. Among them: signed photos, paintings, violin
bows, violins, rare letters and Judaica. “If there was an item that Linda
Stern wanted, she’d call it-Bill Moorhead would call it-‘a personal effect,’
not inventory it, and it was gone,” says Schwartz.
In response to the charges, sources close to the case say, Moorhead
insists he had a fiduciary responsibility to get top value for Stern’s
belongings, that he earned his fee because of negotiations that spared the
estate money, and that he never found hard evidence that Stern wasn’t
competent to turn his apartment over to his wife.
In the end, Linda Stern sold the apartment and gave half the proceeds to
the estate. What the children still want, however, is a full accounting of
their father’s life’s work. Says Shira: “He was a public figure, and it gave
him power to do really great things. But we had to share him with a lot of
people. Things that would have meant a lot to us, we don’t have.”