PHILADELPHIA – An estate administrator and attorney believes a decedent’s niece and a rival attorney committed negligence, fraud and abused civil process during the matter of processing the instant case decedent’s purported will.

Olivia A. Adams of Lancaster filed suit on Feb. 13 in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, against Robena Lowry and American Heritage Federal Credit Union, both of Philadelphia, and Debra G. Speyer of Bala Cynwyd.

Per the lawsuit, Benjamin Hart Jr. opened a bank account with American Heritage Federal Credit Union in May 1976. In late January 2013, Hart, then 80 years old, was found wandering alone on the streets of Philadelphia and taken to the hospital.

When Hart was released, Lowry, Hart’s niece, moved him into her home and never returned to his own residence. Lowry allegedly forged Hart’s name onto papers adding her to Hart’s bank accounts. Within a six-month period, Lowry made several withdrawals from Hart’s account totaling approximately $100,000 and transferred title possession of Hart’s Mercedes Benz automobile to herself.

Judge John W. Herron later determined the document naming Lowry as Hart’s power of attorney was “illegal, defective and notarized in violation of basic Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and notary protocol”, removed Lowry from Hart’s accounts and blocked her further access to them.

Hart passed away on Aug. 18, 2013.

Lowry retained Speyer to represent her through incapacitation proceedings and efforts to file a petition for allowance in Orphans Court. When that petition was dismissed, Lowry and Speyer claimed to have both a will and deed transferring Hart’s assets to Lowry.

The suit says before the decedent’s death, the plaintiff spoke with Lowry, who unequivocally declared the will and deed had not been signed. The plaintiff explained to Lowry she was an attorney who, at that time, was only representing Anthony Hart, the decedent’s son.

The suit adds Lowry and Speyer did not produce the purported will and deed until late March of 2014, seven months after Hart’s passing, and then filed a petition to have the will admitted to probate. Speyer allegedly asked the court for more time to secure a handwriting expert and claimed to have obtained one and was waiting on the report, though later admitted she had never paid for the aforementioned expert.

“Defendant Lowry’s and defendant Speyer’s collective collusion unnecessarily protracted this case for approximately two years. Additionally, after agreeing to have the case decided on the ‘briefs’ defendant Speyer failed to produce a brief but instead submitted a one-page letter,” according to the complaint.

The Register of Wills denied Lowry’s petition to admit the purported will to probate and rejected the contents of defendant Speyer’s non-conforming, one-page document.

“As a result of defendant Lowry’s deliberate and calculated misrepresentations, plaintiff has suffered extreme and unnecessary hardship, emotional distress and financial loss in connection with the defense of the said defendant’s improper and unfounded claims against the Estate of Benjamin Hart Jr.,” the complaint continues.

For counts of conversion, fraud, abuse of civil process and negligence, the plaintiff is seeking total damages of $1.25 million, plus punitive damages and other relief the court deems appropriate.

The plaintiff is representing herself in this matter.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 170202933

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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