MILLIONS MISSING IN TENNESSEE ESTATE

 PURCELL’S FIRM SILENT ON MISSING MILLIONS

EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS IS PART FOUR OF OUR SERIES ABOUT PROTECTING YOUR ASSETS IN THE WAKE OF NEW RULINGS FROM TENNESSEE’S COURTS.

Nashville, Tennessee | Staff reports

The “Little Case from Leiper’s Fork” just got bigger.  Millions bigger.

More than $2 million in assets are missing from the accountings produced by the Nashville based law firm of Farmer, Purcell Lassiter and White. (The firm was previously known as Lassiter, Tidwell, Davis, Keller and Hogan.)

The discovery was made after a multi-year legal battle forced the firm to deliver the accounting and legal records of an estate. Records that they hid from their own clients.

BACKGROUND:

Woody and Nancy Darken moved to Nashville in the early 1990’s to be close to their son, a professional musician. They met attorney Bill Lassiter and Lassiter in turn introduced them to his firm’s tax and estate-planning expert, Randle S. Davis.

Wm Lassiter, partner at Nashville’s Farmer, Purcell, Lassiter and White.

Through the next two decades, Davis and Lassiter’s firm did the legal work for three generations of the family. In 1997, Nancy Darken died of cancer.

Years after his wife’s death death, Mr. Darken met Cherry Lane Broadwell and they decided to get married with a pre-nuptial agreement in place.  Ed Yarborough, a partner at the Nashville firm of Bone-McAllester, wrote the agreement for Cherry Lane, and Randle Davis wrote the pre-nuptial for Darken.

A decade later, Mr. Darken died, and  his surviving wife, called “Miss Cherry Lane” in court documents was sworn in as the executrix of his estate. Mr. Darken’s children were both trustees and beneficiaries of their father’s estate and the family’s trusts.

Both trustees and their family’s were also clients of the firm Lassiter, Tidwell, Davis, Keller and Hogan (now known as Farmer, Purcell, Lassiter and White.)

But “Miss Cherry Lane” wanted more money than she had agreed to in her pre-nuptial. So when the trustees asked for their late father’s legal and financial records, the executrix instead hid them. When they asked Lassiter’s firm for their late father’s legal and financial files the firm also concealed the documents they had on file.

Instead, trial records show that the executrix paid the firm to write up a partial list of accounts and substitute that list for the actual records. Thus using her power with the courts to prevent a legitimate audit of the family’s assets by the trustees.

For more information on “substitution fraud” in this case, click here:

http://www.stopprobatefraud.com/blog/2018/12/07/tennessees-link-to-madoff-scheme/

FIGHTING FOR TRANSPARENCY

It took the trustees two years before Judge Timothy Easter ruled that the firm and the executrix must give the trustees all of their late father’s legal and financial records that they had been hiding.

Tennessee Judge Timothy Easter

One of the files that had been withheld by the firm and the executrix was the accounting disclosures detailed in the pre-nuptial agreement the firm had written.

The file contained more than one hundred pages of financial details including a list of assets that were missing from the estate accountings in the “substitute list” of assets given to the trustees by the executrix and attorney Davis.

MILLIONS MISSING

Missing from the firms accountings is a trust valued at $447,000; $800,000 from another trust; loans worth more than $200,000; thousands of shares of stock; non-compete contracts; real estate, American and European fine art and antiques.

THE TENNESSEE TWIST:

Easter, in addition to ordering the delivery of the family’s documents, ordered the executrix to mediation for the losses that had been inflicted on the trustees.

But the executrix was able to refuse Easter’s mediation oder. She demanded a trial.

It took another a year for the family to go to trial. In that time Judge Easter was removed from the case and promoted to the Tennessee court of appeals. He was replaced by Judge James Martin III.

Court transcripts show that at trial, Davis admitted on the stand that the firm had concealed Darken’s accountings from the trustees “for no good reason.”

But when the executrix finally got the chance take the stand to defend her actions and explain the missing millions, she refused to testify in her own defense.

In refusing to testify, she prevented the trustees from asking her about the assets missing from her accountings.

Judge James Martin III stepped in and exercised the court’s Rule 641, where a judge asks direct questions of a witness.  Martin questioned the executrix on the stand for nearly half an hour but never asked her about the $2 million dollars in assets missing from her accountings.

NOT FRAUD IN TENNESSEE

Judge Martin ruled that in Tennessee, it is not fraud, obstruction of justice or even a breach of fiduciary duty to hide assets and/or legal and financial documents from the trustees or principals of a financial transaction.

The trustees appealed Martin’s ruling to the Middle Tennessee Court of Appeals, but the appeals court upheld Martin’s ruling.

No accounting for the missing assets has never been delivered.

 PURCELL SILENT. COURTS SILENT.

The editors at www.stopprobatefraud.com asked for comment from Bill Purcell, William Lassiter and Elizabeth Sykes who are all partners at the firm Farmer, Purcell, Lassiter and White. We received no response.

The editors also reached out to Barbara Peck, the media relations representative for the Tennessee Supreme Court. Peck did not reply.

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About Edmund Burke 89 Articles
Volunteers working to help people spot, stop and recover from fraud and corruption in probate, trusts, estates & guardianships.