An unsigned court petition is delaying a settlement agreement in the long-running estate case of Helen Plummer which enveloped the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging and Southern University in its controversy.
Plummer died in March at age 95, and her will appointed Council on Aging Director Tasha Clark-Amar to oversee her estate and to collect $500 a month over 20 years. Plummer's family cried foul, saying Clark-Amar had taken advantage of their elderly grandmother, who was a Council on Aging client. Clark-Amar later agreed to step aside from that role.
But Clark-Amar's mother, state District Judge Janice Clark, is now in charge of signing an order necessary for Plummer's family to receive money from the estate through a settlement. And though court records show that the order was filed March 27 and again hand-delivered to Clark's office Aug. 28, the order still has not been signed.
"It befuddles me," said Tracie Davis, Plummer's granddaughter. "We can't move forward. We're stuck."
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Clark's staff said Thursday the judge could not comment on a pending case.
Southern University professor and Council on Aging board member Dorothy Jackson drafted Plummer's will July 6, 2016. Plummer requested in the will that her estate be placed in a trust for her two great-grandchildren and a grandniece.
Her estate is estimated at $650,000, with about half the money coming from two houses and the rest from savings accounts.
One of the great-grandchildren Plummer named in her will is Davis' 9-year-old daughter. Davis filed a petition for tutorship in March because her daughter, as a minor, cannot legally oversee her finances. The petition for tutorship was filed separately from the Plummer succession case, which had already been assigned to 19th JDC Judge Don Johnson. The petition for tutorship, however, was apparently randomly allotted to Clark, Davis said.
The necessity of a petition for tutorship is dependent on a case-by-case basis, though tutorship proceedings are separate from successions. The Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure outlines that tutorship proceedings need to be brought in district court, as Davis has done.
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Parents are automatically the natural tutors of their young children, but the Code of Civil Procedure requires a tutorship proceeding to enter a settlement agreement, or to "compromise a claim of a minor" as the code reads.
Since Davis and her family are settling Plummer's succession, Davis needs a tutorship to sign the settlement agreement on her daughter's behalf.
Davis said she would set up a trust for her daughter with the minor's share of Plummer's estate. But Davis said she cannot do so — nor can the settlement reached for Plummer's estate be approved — until Clark signs off on the petition for tutorship that was filed six months ago.
Meanwhile, the Plummer succession case is scheduled for an Oct. 3 status conference before Judge Johnson. Clark-Amar has also filed a defamation lawsuit against Davis and her family for accusing Clark-Amar of using her role at the Council on Aging for wrongdoing.
Davis's attorney has asked for the defamation lawsuit to be dismissed, and Johnson — who is presiding over both the Plummer succession and the separate defamation lawsuit — has scheduled a hearing on it for Oct. 16. Clark was also originally assigned to preside over her daughter's defamation lawsuit, and recused herself along with every other judge in 19th JDC aside from Johnson.
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