The legal dispute surrounding the roughly $200 million estate of the late Charlotte developer Henry Faison has been resolved, with his company winning forgiveness of more than $100 million in loans he’d extended to it.
The assets were in dispute because Faison tried to update his will so that a large portion of his wealth would go to a charitable foundation rather than to his company, Faison Enterprises.
Despite a trail of emails and memos outlining that intention, he didn’t sign the legal documents making it official before his sudden death on Nov. 30, 2012, at 78.
The law generally says a written will isn’t valid unless it is handwritten by the decedent or is signed by that person in the presence of two witnesses.
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But a lawsuit filed by his sons, Jay and Lane Faison, said Faison and company officials agreed to the change of plan before his death, and the company received life insurance and other benefits under that agreement.
The lawsuit asked the courts to force the firm to allow the assets, including $105 million in loans extended by Faison, to pass to the foundation.
The dispute revolved around Faison’s June 2000 will, which left the residuary of his estate – what remains after taxes, specific gifts and other costs – to Faison Enterprises, which he founded in 1988.
But Faison changed his mind, and in summer 2012 decided to leave much of his personal wealth to a charitable trust he planned to name after his dog, a Brittany named Skeebo.
The move would avoid about $110 million in federal estate taxes and allow the foundation to support conservative causes, according to the lawsuit.
But Faison died just before he could sign the will or the documents creating the trust.
Faison Enterprises said in its legal papers that the sons were proposing the sort of “post-mortem tax and estate planning” prohibited by state law.
The company’s lawyers said Faison had repeatedly declined to sign a 2012 draft will, even though he had it for more than two months before he died. They said his 2000 will should be followed.
The parties engaged in a mediated settlement conference in May and reached an agreement, court papers show. That agreement was folded into a June 16 order from Superior Court Judge W. Erwin Spainhour.
The judge directed that the loans be distributed to Faison Enterprises – essentially meaning the company won’t have to repay them.
He also required Jay and Lane Faison, co-executors of their father’s estate, to refund $1 million in interest the company paid on the loans and pay the company’s legal fees up to $2.5 million. In addition, the judge’s order gave Faison Enterprises the option to purchase certain properties owned by the estate.
After all legal fees, distributions and other expenses are satisfied, the remainder of the estate goes to the Skeebo trust.
Tom Myrick, one of the lawyers representing Faison’s sons, said he couldn’t comment other than to confirm that the lawsuit has been settled. Douglas Ey, one of the lawyers defending Faison Enterprises, said the same.