The family of a deceased St. Clair County man is suing an East St. Louis non-profit legal service and attorney they say mishandled his will.
Harry Phelps, Robert Phelps, Dennis Phelps, Alan Phelps, Donald Phelps, now known as Dan Sheils, Michael Sheils and Meliss Sheils filed a lawsuit June 6 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation Inc. and Stephanie Hiebert.
According to the complaint, Hiebert was retained as legal counsel for Clifford and Alene Phelps prior to June 2010 to prepare last wills and testaments for the couple. Hiebert, who worked for Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, allegedly helped Clifford Phelps execute a will dated June 22, 2010 at the Columbia Convalescent Center in Columbia.
However, Hiebert never met with Clifford Phelps to determine he was of sound mind and memory to execute a will, according to the family, and she failed to determine the nature and extent of his property, which was allegedly worth approximately $1.6 million.
The plaintiffs claim all of Hiebert's information gathered for Clifford Phelps' last will and testament came from his wife and her nieces, who allegedly became the primary beneficiaries of his will, disinheriting the plaintiffs. The family alleges Hiebert and Land of Lincoln Legal Services Foundation knew Clifford Phelps was physically impaired during the preparation of the will and was aware he could not sign his name. They also contend Hiebert was not present at the execution of Clifford Phelps' last will and testament.
After Clifford Phelps died at a Campbell, Mo., nursing home in December 2011 the plaintiffs filed a petition to contest the will in the Circuit Court of Dunklin County, Mo., and a petition to contest the validity of the will in St. Clair County Circuit Court. The family says neither had been resolved prior to the filing of this complaint.
Hiebert and Land of Lincoln Legal Services Foundation are accused of breach of contract and fiduciary duty as well as professional negligence. The plaintiffs ask for more than $100,000 in damages plus court costs.
They are represented by attorney Larry O. Brockman of Swansea.
St. Clair County Circuit Court Case No. 13-L-287