Judge to hear dismissal plea in estate lawsuit

Judge to hear dismissal plea in estate lawsuit
February 11
00:00 2016
Above: Attorney Bryan C. Thompson



Will the lawsuit alleging fraud on the part of an estate guardian and Forsyth County Clerk of Superior Court go to trial?

That question could be answered Monday during a scheduled hearing in Forsyth County Superior Court as to whether the lawsuit on behalf of the estate of the late Mary Ellen Thompson should be dismissed. Attorney Bryan C. Thompson (no relation), the estate guardian appointed in May 2007 to manage Ms. Thompson’s $1. 4 million estate, was accused in the October 2015 suit of a “… pattern and practice of fraudulent acts,” resulting in, the lawsuit alleges, a loss of much of those assets.

But last December, in her answer to that suit, Attorney Thompson’s lawyer, attorney Molly Whitlatch of Greensboro, countered that allegation in her answer, claiming that Attorney Thompson committed no wrongdoing, and claiming that the lawsuit by Mary Thompson’s estate is chock full of “frivolous and baseless” allegations.

It was in that 32-page answer that Attorney Whitlatch pinpointed each claim from the lawsuit that was, according to her, in error and should be dismissed.

As The Chronicle first and exclusively reported last October when the law-suit was originally filed against the Forsyth Clerk’s Office, two insurance companies, and several local attorneys, including attorney Bryan Thompson, it also alleged that Attorney Thompson had someone in the Forsyth Clerk of Court Office to “… sign a guardianship appointment in his favor on May 1, 2007 without giving notice to Mary Thompson and her next of kin as it is required …” by state statutes. The suit further claimed that because evidence of incompetency was not initially presented, as legally required, Attorney Thompson knew that his “… guardianship appointment in his favor was fictitious … [and] used it to fraudulently obtain possession and control over the assets of Mary Thompson in May of 2007.”

Indeed, the clerk’s order of Incompetency per Mary Thompson was not issued until May 3, 2007, contrary to the law dictates requiring for incompetency to be legally established first before the appointment of a legal guardian. And because none of those orders were legally file-stamped or properly entered into the court record,  the N.C. Court of Appeals in February 2014 found that “… all of Attorney Thompson’s actions regarding the estate of Mary Thompson …were without legal authority.”

The result, claimed plaintiff’s attorney Reginald D. Alston for the Mary Thompson estate, is that attorney Bryan Thompson allegedly squandered much of those assets and proceeds from her properties.

In her answer to those and other allegations contained in the suit, Attorney Whitlatch denied that Attorney Thompson did anything improper or took any of Mary Thompson’s assets for his own use. “Plaintiff (estate administrator Calvin Brannon) and his counsel knew or should have known that the assets were worth a fraction of such amount, and have made misleading allegations implying that Defendants took such assets for their own benefit when in fact, the assets were used for the benefit of Mary Thompson.”

Attorney Whitlatch included copies of several notarized receipts showing how the assets from Mary Thompson’s estate were spent by Attorney Thompson to pay for her nursing home and medical care, in addition to what was coming in from her Social Security payments. Whitlatch’s answer stated that many of the lawsuits claims were “misleading.” She asked the court for sanctions against the plaintiff.

Whitlatch, writing on behalf of Attorney Thompson, also maintained that, “… prior to 2014, it was the practice of the Forsyth County Clerk of Superior Court not to file stamp any Orders that had been prepared and executed by representatives of the Clerk of Superior Court.”

She adds that Attorney Thompson “acted in good faith in carrying out duties under the Orders …,” effectively saying that he did nothing wrong, and relied on the directives of the Clerk’s Office.

A Forsyth Superior Court judge will decide Monday whether the lawsuit will go forward or to dismiss it.

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