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Report: Judge seals JoePa's will, order and petition

CBSSports.com wire reports
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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, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Even the judge's order and the petition by a Paterno attorney requesting the action were sealed, The (Wilkes-Barre) Citizen's Voice reported. County records indicate that Paterno's was the only will sealed in the county in the past 18 months, the paper said.

A family spokesman said Sunday that the step was intended to preserve "a measure of privacy" for the family and was "not an unusual request for high-profile individuals."

Paterno, who amassed a Division I record 409 victories in more than four decades at Penn State, died from 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 attorney 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 email messages.

Family spokesman Dan McGinn said Sunday that the step was recommended by the estate attorney "in an attempt to preserve a measure of privacy for the family."

"This is not an unusual request for high-profile individuals, and all parties to the will and the judge readily agreed to the request," McGinn told the Associated Press in an email. "The Paterno family has been totally transparent with respect to Coach Paterno's contract and pension. Sue Paterno has also reiterated her commitment to support charitable causes connected to Penn State and the State College community. These efforts will continue."

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. McGinn 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.

The former coach for years sidestepped questions about his salary, and state officials declined requests to reveal his compensation until late in his career. In 2007, a court ordered the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System to disclose Paterno's base salary of $512,664, saying it was a public record.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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