The Kansas Court of Appeals has denied a claim attempting to legitimize a codicil to a millionaire’s will by a former bookkeeper with a history of taking other people’s money.
A 2016 ruling by Kansas City Judge William Lyle was upheld by the Kansas Court of Appeals. A codicil, or addition, to the will of millionaire Earl O. Fields was deemed to be a fake, and the majority of Fields’ estate would not be moved to the former employee, nor would her legal fees be paid by the estate.
Wealth Advisor reports in the story “Kansas Bookkeeper Loses Claim On $20M Boss Estate” that the Court of Appeals found that “…a rational fact-finder could have found it highly probable that Oborny or someone other than Field, at Oborny’s behest, signed the purported codicil instead of Field,” the Appeals Court concluded. “Oborny’s testimony was often inconsistent. She had a history of taking other person’s money,” the Court said.
Oborny was a part-time bookkeeper for Field, who was 98 when he died on February 19, 2013. The Court stated that “Oborny was not present when Field died, because she had to ‘run to the bank.’” She testified that she went to her boss’ office in a bank building on the evening he died and happened to discover two typewritten letters—one addressed to her—that altered the directions for his estate.
Oborny’s testimony was inconsistent and expert witnesses argued that the handwriting, typed letters, and reconstructed shredded letter incriminated her. She had her friends sign as witnesses on the fake codicil. Interestingly, Oborny and the witnesses had an hour-long phone call on the day Field died.
Even more bizarre was the fact that FBI special agents visited the witnesses’ home on August 20, 2015 to get their statements, but the next day their bodies were discovered at a nearby state park in a murder-suicide that took place the day before. When a police detective searched the witnesses’ home on August 21, the couple’s adult son showed him a federal subpoena for the husband to appear before a grand jury the following month.
The two witnesses gave videotaped depositions in the case, before they died.
In the appeal, Oborny contended that the trial judge “drew impermissible inferences from the irrelevant fact that the Littles died in a murder-suicide after being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),” the Appeals Court ruling noted. She claimed the judge erred in “stacking” two inferences to impeach the witnesses’ testimony.
That objection was discounted by the Appeals Court.
Oborny next faces federal charges of mail fraud. Her trial is expected to take place later this year.
Reference: Wealth Advisor (February 26, 2018) “Kansas Bookkeeper Loses Claim On $20M Boss Estate”
Suggested Key Terms: Will Changes, Codicil, Probate Court, Inheritance