WAILUKU - Second Circuit Judge Shackley Raffetto confirmed a confidential settlement and awarded legal fees Wednesday in a dispute over the more than $60 million estate of Laurence "Baron" Dorcy.
The settlement was reached in February and mediated by retired 2nd Circuit Judge John McConnell.
The late Kula resident inherited his wealth, estimated Wednesday by one attorney at $62 million. Dorcy was the great-grandson of James J. Hill, founder of the Great Northern Railway, and, on his mother's side, a descendant of Ben Holladay, who founded the Pony Express.
Dorcy died in Honolulu in June. He had named Morihara Store operator Hans Kanuha as his sole beneficiary in a 2011 will. However, he had an earlier will that apportioned money from his estate among several dozen charities, as well as Dorcy's friends and relatives.
Jeffrey Peterson, Dorcy's longtime trust representative, challenged the second will's validity, alleging that Dorcy was ill and incapable of knowing what he was doing when he changed the will and trust in January 2011. Peterson also contested late amendments to Dorcy's 1997 trust that his attorneys said would give Kanuha control over trust assets.
Honolulu attorney Michael Rudy, representing beneficiaries of the earlier will who challenged Kanuha's claim, said Wednesday's court hearing marked the "final chapter" in litigation over Dorcy's estate.
He called the settlement "fair and reasonable" and in the "best interest of the beneficiaries."
In ruling on legal fees, Raffetto awarded $1 million to Wailuku attorney Isaac Hall and $4.5 million to Rudy and Honolulu attorney Carroll Taylor. The attorneys defended the beneficiaries of the first will. The fees were in addition to other fees awarded Feb. 9, he said.
In total, the attorneys' fees amounted to about 10 percent of the fair market value of the trust, estimated to be worth about $62 million, Rudy said.
Other attorneys involved in the case have not formally petitioned for fees, Rudy said.
When asked about an earlier estimate of $80 million for the trust's value, Rudy said that was a preliminary estimate, and the value of the trust is subject to fluctuations. For example, part of the trust is in valuable Oregon timber partnerships, which fluctuate in value, he said.
However, the Dorcy estate was certainly one of the largest trusts to be litigated in Hawaii and, especially, on Maui, he said.
"It was a very difficult, complex case," Rudy said. "It was a challenge that the estate and trust attorney successfully met. . . . I think it was an outstanding result for all the charities and all the private beneficiaries as well."
Hall agreed, saying the settlement was a "very successful outcome from our perspective."
"We think the fee award the judge entered protects the charities and the beneficiaries in the manner Mr. Dorcy wanted," he said.
Wailuku attorney James Krueger, representing Kanuha, did not respond to a request for comment.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.