Local News

Raleigh family fights over $50 million in Wake County courtroom

Posted September 17, 2005 10:41 a.m. EDT
Updated September 2, 2008 9:03 p.m. EDT

— The Pope family is known for donating millions of dollars to education, the arts and conservative political causes. The family is also known for running the Raleigh-based Variety Wholesalers, which owns more than 500 discount stores across the southeast, including Roses and Maxway.

But now the family is divided as it fought over a big chunk of money Friday in the Wake County Courthouse.

On one side of the legal battle is Jane Forbes Pope, the widow of John Pope Jr., who died from a heart attack in 2004.

Her attorneys filed lawsuits claiming she was wrongly shut out from inheriting half of her late husband's trust, which was estimated to be worth more than $100 million.

"John Pope and Jane Pope lived a very comfortable lifestyle. The legislative intent in enacting the Elective Share Act was to allow the surviving spouse to continue a lifestyle commensurate with what they enjoyed during the marriage," Stuart Dorsett, Jane Pope's attorney, said. "That's all we're trying to achieve."

But former state legislator Art Pope and his sister Amanda Pope disagree. They argue their brother, John Pope Jr., actually lost control of his trust years earlier.

"Jane is not entitled to reach back 20 years or so and lay claim to those assets," Johnny Loper, Art Pope's attorney, said.

After Pope John Jr. died in 2004, his siblings transferred his trust to the family's charitable foundation. The executor of the estate also filed suit against the family, claiming the money transfer was fraudulent.

Art and Amanda Pope "had no discretion in the matter," Loper said. "They did what they had to do."

The clerk for Wake County will take the case under advisement. But no matter what the clerk's ruling, both sides indicate the decision will be appealed if the ruling is not in their favor.

Even if she loses the case, attorneys said, Jane Pope will inherit close to $5 million.