Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Steadied' Scaifehand during Will Signing Raises Issues Foundation Head Says He Helped Publisher

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Steadied' Scaifehand during Will Signing Raises Issues Foundation Head Says He Helped Publisher

Article excerpt

A foundation executive's admission that he "steadied" the hand of the ailing Richard Mellon Scaife as the publisher initialed his will in 2013 could raise new questions in a billion-dollar estate fight, an expert in wills said Friday.

Matthew A. Groll, executive director of the Allegheny Foundation, which gained hundreds of millions of dollars from Mr. Scaife's bequests, confirmed in court filings late Thursday that he "steadied" the Tribune-Review publisher's hand as he wrote "RMS" on his will.

Mr. Groll - one of three witnesses to the will-did that "at Mr. Scaife's request," according to the filing with the Westmoreland County Register of Wills by the Allegheny Foundation.

That request would make the assistance legal, but doesn't close the door on questions, said Michael J. Hussey, an associate professor of law at Widener University's Harrisburg campus.

"If I would've been there as Scaife's attorney, I don't think I would've let anybody touch his hand," said Mr. Hussey. The better option would have been "coming back . when [Mr. Scaife] would've been having a better day" and could inscribe his initials independently.

Jennie Scaife, 52, of Florida in July challenged her father's will, which mentioned neither she, nor her brother, David Scaife, 49, of Shadyside. She alleged that Mr. Groll "guided" her father's hand, and that Tribune-Review board chairman H. Yale Gutnick exercised "undue influence."

"Mr. Scaife had difficulty with his fine motor skills, such that it was difficult for him to use eating utensils and writing instruments," according to the foundation's response, and that's why Mr. Groll "steadied" the publisher's hand.

The foundation's response denies that Mr. Scaife was "greatly impaired . groggy . unable to pay attention or concentrate" or otherwise unaware of his surroundings, estate or daughter at the time the will was initialed.

"What they have said in these pleadings is not unexpected as they circle the wagons," said William Pietragallo, the attorney representing Jennie Scaife. …

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