Final wishes dishonored

A recent Temple Daily Telegram (Texas) story illustrates the continued existence of modern day grave robbing, also known as Involuntary Redistribution of Assets (IRA). The case centers on a former funeral home owner who is scheduled to enter a guilty plea later this month on a charge that he misused funds a woman had willed to charity. IRA cases are increasingly coming under scrutiny. This Texas case has similarities to the recent indictment of Anthony Marshall, son of New York socialite Brooke Astor, by the Manhattan district attorney’s offfice. The decedents in both cases appear to have clearly communicated wishes regarding final distribution of their assets while prosecutors contend wishes were not honored and assets were instead allegedly redistributed for the personal gain of those in trusted positions.

Executor charged with stealing $200,000; former funeral director expected to plead guilty
Paul A. Romer
January 3, 2008
BELTON – The former owner of Sheffield Funeral Home is scheduled to enter a guilty plea Jan. 30 on a charge that he misused more than $200,000 that a woman had willed to charity, according to Bell County documents.

Hall Wade Sheffield, 69, was the executor for the will of Vida C. Miller, who died of breast cancer on Nov. 21, 1998. He was indicted in May by a Bell County grand jury on a charge of misapplication of fiduciary property.

The indictment says that Sheffield distributed assets from Miller’s estate to himself and Jay Tankersley, although neither was listed as a beneficiary in the will. Sheffield’s lawyer, Steve Blythe, said Tankersley is Sheffield’s former son-in-law.

Since the case is still pending, neither Blythe nor Nelson Barnes, the Bell County prosecutor assigned to the case, would comment on specifics relating to the charge.

Mrs. Miller’s will named two beneficiaries to her estate: the Heart Research Department at Scott & White Memorial Hospital and the Arthritis Foundation, Heart of Texas Branch. It specified that both organizations should each receive half of her assets.

The net value of Mrs. Miller’s estate was calculated to be $431,953, including more than $331,000 from 11 different accounts at three different banks, according to county documents. She also owned a $95,000 house at 208 Kasburg Drive in Temple.

The indictment says Sheffield acted in a manner that involved substantial risk to Scott & White Memorial Hospital’s share of the money from the estate.

Because it is a legal matter, Judy Curtis, manager of media relations with Scott & White, said Wednesday she would not comment on the case. However, representatives of the hospital filed a petition for an accounting and distribution of the funds on Dec. 18, 2001.

Sheffield was arrested and bailed out of jail on June 7. The charge is a third-degree felony and carries a punishment range of five to 99 years in prison.