By Michael Hewlett Winston-Salem Journal
A Winston-Salem lawyer who is routinely assigned to handle estates denies allegations that he committed fraud and took $1.4 million from the Estate of a woman who was declared mentally incompetent, according to court papers filed last month.
Bryan Thompson was named as one of the defendants in a lawsuit filed Oct. 20 in Forsyth Superior Court by Reginald Alston, a Winston-Salem attorney representing the estate of Mary Thompson. (The two are not related.)
Mary Thompson, a former nurse and businesswoman, died Oct. 2, 2014. Her brother, Calvin Brannon, the administrator of her estate, died last month, according to an obituary.
The lawsuit alleges that Bryan Thompson illegally obtained guardianship of the estate because Theresa Hinshaw, an assistant court clerk who has since retired, violated state law in declaring Mary Thompson mentally incompetent in May 2007. The lawsuit says Hinshaw scheduled a hearing for April 26, 2007, but the case was never called.
Hinshaw then signed an order May 1 appointing Bryan Thompson guardian of the estate. She signed a second court order May 3 declaring Mary Thompson mentally incompetent.
The lawsuit also alleges that Bryan Thompson; Fred Flyn, an attorney appointed as Mary Thompson’s guardian ad litem; William Speaks, the attorney for Mary Thompson’s niece; and several Forsyth County court clerks “formed an association or RICO enterprise for the purpose of taking assets from numerous Forsyth County citizens without entered orders of incompetence or duly filed guardianship appointments.”
The lawsuit alleges a pattern of racketeering activity.
On Dec. 16, Mary Whitlatch, an attorney representing Bryan Thompson, filed an answer to the lawsuit and several motions, including one to dismiss.
Whitlatch denied allegations that Bryan Thompson committed fraud and stole assets from Mary Thompson’s estate.
She also filed a motion for sanctions against the plaintiff as well as counterclaims.
She also disputed Alston’s allegations that Mary Thompson’s estate was worth anywhere near $1.4 million.
The lawsuit alleged that Bryan Thompson illegally obtained $2,000 a month from Mary Thompson’s retirement and Social security payments and used his guardianship to “trick third parties into buying Mary Thompson’s real estate for his improper purposes while not paying taxes on all such property.”
Whitlatch said in her answer that Bryan Thompson used assets from Mary Thompson’s estate to pay for her medical care and other needs.
Whitlatch argues that Bryan Thompson sold seven of her properties to raise enough money for her care because Mary Thompson had too much debt and expenses and not enough cash.
“I think the main thing is that Bryan Thompson was appointed in his capacity as public administrator,” she said in an interview Tuesday.
Whitlatch said that Bryan Thompson has to file paperwork showing how he has spent an estate’s money, and assets and he is held accountable by the court system on how he handles someone’s estate.
According to Whitlatch’s answer, public administrators, by state law, have the “power to perform in reasonable and prudent manner every act that a reasonable and prudent person would perform incident to the collection, preservation, management, and use of the ward’s estate” to accomplish what is necessary legally and in the person’s best interest.
Whitlatch also said that a number of Mary Thompson’s properties were sold while her estate was in bankruptcy. Bryan Thompson had nothing to do with those sales or the bankruptcy proceedings, she said.
Some of Mary Thompson’s properties were not sold and still belong to her estate, Whitlatch said.
Alston declined to comment Wednesday, but in the lawsuit he alleges that because the clerk’s orders were not file-stamped and recorded, the appointment of Bryan Thompson as guardian was illegal.
Susan Frye, the clerk of Forsyth County Superior Court, who also is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said in an interview in October that it had been the standard practice in 2007 for clerks not to file-stamp orders that had been prepared and executed by representatives in the clerk’s office.
Whitlatch said Bryan Thompson was not aware of this practice. After the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled that Hinshaw’s order of incompetency was never entered because it didn’t have a file-stamp, Whitlatch said Frye, using her authority under state law, went back and had the orders properly recorded.
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Winston-Salem lawyer denies allegations of fraud with woman's estate