Paterno's will sealed from public view

Posted: June 11, 2012

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — The last will and testament of Joe Paterno was ordered permanently sealed from public view along with all related court filings at the request of a family attorney, the Wilkes-Barre Citizen's Voice reported Sunday.

Even the judge's order and the petition by a Paterno attorney requesting the action were sealed, the Citizen's Voice said. Centre County records indicate that Paterno's was the only will sealed in the county in the last 18 months, the paper said.

Paterno, who amassed a Division I record 409 victories in more than four decades at Penn State, died of lung cancer in January at age 85, a couple of months after he was ousted by the school's board of trustees following the explosive child sex abuse allegations against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

On April 5, the will entered probate, the legal process for validating the document, and estate attorney Raymond Parker petitioned to keep the matter secret the same day. Four days later, a judge ordered the record sealed.

The decision was "very strange," Wilkes-Barre lawyer Jerry Chariton, who has worked on estate law cases for four decades, told the paper.

"Would there be reasons why any family would like to preserve confidentiality? Sure, but that would be true of lots of people," Chariton said. "I don't know what creates any special situation here."

The paper said court officials could not determine Friday which of the county's five judges ordered the Paterno will and case file sealed. Judge Thomas Kistler, who as president judge oversees the county courts system, didn't return messages left at his chambers and home. Parker also didn't return telephone and e-mail messages.

Only a court docket sheet remained public record and provided limited details about the former coach's will, wealth and estate:

Paterno completed his last will and testament in June 1997 and filed an amendment in February 2010, naming his wife, Sue, as executor. The estate paid a $200,000 inheritance tax on April 23. The paper said that depending on the applicable rate, the taxable portion of Paterno's estate at the time of the tax payment was worth between $1.35 million to $4.45 million.

Other details came from Penn State and the state employees retirement system. On April 19, the university paid Paterno's estate more than $3 million in salary, television and radio revenue sharing, bonuses and death benefits. The university also said it would forgive $350,000 in unspecified outstanding loans and debt incurred by the Paternos.

On May 22, the state retirement system said Paterno left his wife his $13.4 million in pension benefits. A family spokesman said at the time that she would give $1.5 million to charity, including $500,000 to the Susan Pohland Paterno Catholic Student Faith Center.

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