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Judge Rules Against Liberace Kin in Will Dispute

August 17, 1988 GMT

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) _ A judge rejected a bid to remove the executor of Liberace’s multimillion dollar estate, overruling claims by his sister and four associates that the lawyer had looted the estate after orchestrating a deathbed will.

Tuesday’s ruling ended one chapter in a long court battle over the entertainer’s fortune. State District Judge Michael Wendell still must rule on who will pay the legal fees.

Attorneys for the executor, Joel Strote of Beverly Hills, Calif., have asked that the fees be paid by the plaintiffs, including Liberace’s 74-year- old sister, Angie, who was left $594,000. She had described herself as penniless.

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The other plaintiffs were Liberace’s housekeepers Dorothy McMahon and Gladys Luckie, long-time manager Seymour Heller, and Cary James, Liberace’s companion the last six years of his life.

In closing arguments Tuesday, plaintiff attorney Harold Gewerter said if the lawsuit hadn’t been filed, Strote ″would have kept on the path of raping the Liberace estate.″

He said Strote had coerced Liberace into signing a revised will 13 days before his death, leaving Strote in charge. Gewerter argued that Liberace was not capable of making rational decisions or reading the 100 pages of legal documents.

″Joel Strote has become the largest single beneficiary of the Liberace estate,″ Gewerter said. He said Strote had been paid $500,000 in legal fees and was making $250 an hour sitting through the court proceedings. He said Strote welcomed lawsuits against the entertainer’s estate so he could keep making the legal fees.

Strote’s actions were ″tantamount to robbing from a dead man,″ he said.

But defense attorney John O’Reilly said Strote had taken the Liberace foundation, with $100,000 in assets at the time of the entertainer’s death, and turned it into an $18 million entity by selling off the estate’s assets.

He said the Liberace Foundation for the Performing Arts had been a long- time dream of the flayboyant pianist, who died Feb. 4, 1987 of complications from AIDS. The foundation was formed in 1979 to provide art and music scholarships at 30 colleges and universities.

He said the plaintiffs had become accustomed to the good life while Liberace was alive, and wanted more out of the estate after his death.

″Liberace dreamed a dream, then made it become a reality,″ O’Reilly said. ″The plaintiffs lived a dream but can’t face reality. It’s been said man must pay the fiddler. Liberace chose to subsidize a whole symphony orchestra. Now they’re saying ’Just give us control.‴