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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Magnuson son sues siblings over estate

A son of the late Silver Valley mining magnate Harry Magnuson is suing three siblings for allegedly writing him out of their mother’s will and misusing money from the family’s trust account.

Harry Magnuson died in 2009 at age 85, leaving behind a large fortune in mining companies, banks, hotels and shopping malls throughout the Inland Northwest. He’s often credited with revitalizing the town of Wallace, Idaho, and helping save Gonzaga University during financial struggles in the 1970s.

His widow, Colleen Magnuson, died in March, and now four of their five children are embroiled in litigation. Thomas Magnuson, the second-youngest, filed two lawsuits Thursday, in Spokane County Superior Court and U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene.

Thomas Magnuson, 58, is the founder of Magnuson Hotels, with headquarters in Spokane and London. In the Spokane County suit, he alleges that his brother, Coeur d’Alene attorney John Magnuson, coerced their mother to revise her will in the years leading up to her death.

Before she died, Colleen Magnuson’s health had been in decline for several years, according to the lawsuit. Her will was drafted in 2002 along with her husband’s, and both named all five of their children as primary beneficiaries. Her husband died in 2009, and in 2011 she signed a new will drafted by a notary who worked in John Magnuson’s law office.

The new will removed Thomas Magnuson as a beneficiary and granted more money to his four siblings. Another revision in 2013, signed by a beneficiary on Colleen Magnuson’s behalf, granted all art, jewelry, furniture, tools, cars and boats, among other belongings, to the other four children.

The suit says John Magnuson provided their mother’s legal counsel and “otherwise had a confidential relationship” with her while the will was being revised.

In the federal suit, Thomas Magnuson alleges that his other brother, Coeur d’Alene attorney H. James Magnuson, removed him from the boards of directors for the Magnuson Hospitality Group, the Magnuson Properties Corp., the Syringa Mining Corp. and the H.F. Magnuson Family Foundation.

That suit also claims James Magnuson misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars from various subsidiaries of the family’s trust.

In a phone interview, Thomas Magnuson said those “adverse actions” and “misuses of funds” are hurting the family’s businesses and charitable organizations as well as his father’s legacy.

“It would be a shame for his reputation to be contaminated by financial mismanagement only a few years after his death,” he said.

He declined to comment on his relationship with his siblings.

The Spokane County suit seeks damages from John and James Magnuson and Kathleen Magnuson Sheppard. The federal suit names only James Magnuson as a defendant. Attempts to reach them Thursday were not successful.