I came across a sad but interesting story recently. It was about an estate fight between siblings that turned into a criminal case and resulted in one of the siblings,the estate administrator,and her husband going to jail.

Shirley Leathers died of cancer in 2006 after she was misdiagnosed. Her family sued the doctor for malpractice and received $ 1 million in a wrongful death settlement. After deducting legal fees and expenses, there was about $ 550,000.00 left.(Maybe I should switch from estate litigation to malpractice litigation!)

Shirley left four adult children. Her daughter Dell Leathers-Buford was appointed as administrator of the estate with the understanding that she and her siblings would get an equal share of the settlement money which was the main asset of the estate. But, she short-changed her siblings by over $ 230,000.00. She hid the fraud by lying about estate expenses and by lying in probate court about a trust that had been established for a granddaughter.

Her siblings had never seen the settlement agreement and when they asked for a copy, she put them off.

The probate judge removed her as administrator of the estate and referred her case to the district attorney. Leathers- Buford was charged and convicted of perjury, larceny and embezzlement. Her husband also participated in the scheme and was also convicted. They were each sentenced to 18 months in jail. The judge ordered the husband to spend 6 months in jail and suspended the balance of his sentence.

But Dell’s brothers asked the judge not to send their sister to jail notwithstanding that she cheated them out of their inheritance.

“She’s not a hard–core criminal at all”, her brother Daryl Leathers said, (according to a report in the Boston Globe). “She didn’t give us what she was supposed to, but she did give us some money. Since the court proceedings, we actually started talking again.”

I guess blood really is thicker than water.