IN THE MATTER OF HELEN MARJORIE SLOAN
Case number 91-GC-02-00006
This matter comes before the Court on the petitions of Creighton Wesley Sloan seeking appointment as Conservator and Guardian of his mother, Helen Marjorie Sloan. The Court, finding exigent circumstances existed relating to Mrs. Sloan's social security and pension income, granted unto Creighton Wesley Sloan a temporary appointment as Conservator and Guardian on January 16, 1991. A response was filed to the Petitions by Samuel Howard Sloan, also known as M. Ishmael Sloan, who is the brother of the Petitioner and the only other child of Helen Marjorie Sloan. Samuel Howard Sloan objected to the appointment of his brother as Conservator and Guardian for their mother and denied that Helen Marjorie Sloan was incapacitated.
A hearing on the merits of the Petitions was held at the Aiken County Judicial Center on March 4 and 5, 1991. Present were the Petitioner and his attorney, William H. Tucker; Samuel Howard Sloan, appearing pro se; Mrs. Helen Marjorie Sloan; and Paige Weeks Johnson, the Court appointed Guardian ad Litem for Mrs. Sloan. Also present were Mrs. Sloan's brother, Cassel W. Jacobson. Gloria Sloan, and representatives from the Aiken County Department of Social Services.
Prior to taking testimony, the Court interviewed Mrs. Sloan outside the presence of either of her sons with only the Court Reporter and the Guardian ad Litem present in the hearing room. Mrs. Sloan and was neatly and appropriately dressed but could not answer fundamental questions regarding where she was, the nature of the hearing, the fact that she had been a pediatric psychiatrist for many years, and other general questions regarding her background and family life. Also received into evidence were the narrative reports of the two designated examiners, Melvyn L. Haas, M.D. and Sheila A. Milot, M.D., both of which indicated that Mrs. Sloan was incapable of handling her own business and personal affairs and was in need of someone being appointed as her Conservator and Guardian.
Extensive testimony was received from Cassel W. Jacobson, the brother of Helen Marjorie Sloan, regarding his involvement with her return to the United States from Thailand in September of 1990 after living abroad with Samuel Howard Sloan for the prior four (4) years, principally in the United Arab Emirates. Mr. Sloan described her serious medical condition at the time she was brought back from Thailand, his attempts to care for her in Maryland, and the circumstances which brought her to live with her son, Creighton Wesley Sloan, in Aiken since November of 1990. Mr. Jacobson reported on the poor condition of Mrs. Sloan's former residence in Lynchburg, Virginia, since no one has lived in the house for the last four to five years until Samuel Howard Sloan and the members of his family took up residence in the home in November or December of 1990. Mr. Jacobson testified that he had visited his sister in Aiken at Creighton Sloan's home and was satisfied with the care she was receiving. He further testified that he did not feel that Samuel Howard Sloan could adequately care for his mother at her home in Lynchburg based upon his observations of Samuel Sloan's lifestyle.
The Petitioner, Creighton Sloan, testified as to his actions in bringing his mother back to the United States and his attempts to adequately care for her since coming to live with him in Aiken. Creighton Sloan testified that he is employed by Westinghouse Savannah River Company, owns his home where he, his wife and two children reside, and has attempted over the years to assist his mother upon the onset of the symptoms she has experienced since 1984. Mr. Sloan told of the extensive litigation involving his brother, Samuel, over their mothers affairs in Virginia and the care he is providing for her in Aiken.
Patricia Baxley, an adult protective caseworker for the Aiken County Department of Social Services, testified about the investigation she has made concerning Mrs. Sloan following receipt of a report that Mrs. Sloan was being held captive in Creighton Sloan's residence. Ms. Baxley stated that she had visited the Creighton Sloan residence on three (3) occasions and found the care and environment for Mrs. Sloan to be entirely appropriate. She has also visited the adult day care facility Mrs. Sloan attends and feels that this stimulation has benefited Mrs. Sloan. She recommended that Mrs. Sloan remain in Creighton Sloan's home.
Paige Weeks Johnson, the Guardian ad Litem, gave her report to the Court which has been made a part of the record of this case. Mrs. Johnson has also thoroughly investigated the Creighton Sloan residence, the day care center, met with Creighton and Gloria Sloan and Samuel Howard Sloan. Her conclusion is that the best interest of Mrs. Sloan would be served by continuing placement in the home of Creighton Sloan and that he be appointed her Guardian. However, due to the past history of rivalry and litigation involving Mrs. Sloan's property, the Guardian ad Litem is recommending the appointment of a neutral third party, such as a bank trust department, as Conservator for Mrs. Sloan.
Dr. Melvyn Haas, a local neurologist who was appointed as one of two designated examiners for the purpose of this hearing, was called as a witness by Samuel Howard Sloan. Dr. Haas testified that, in his professional opinion, Mrs. Sloan suffered from dementia probably of the Alzheimer's type but that no conclusive diagnosis could be made until a post mortem examination after her death. He emphasized that it made no difference what it was called, Mrs. Sloan's ability to think, reason and make decisions regarding her business and personal life were impaired and that she was in need of a Conservator and Guardian.
Samuel Howard Sloan, the other son of Helen Marjorie Sloan, testified at length regarding the history of this family and his care of his mother during the past four or five years. He denied that she suffered from a form of dementia and expressed confidence that she would be better in her own home in Lynchburg where she would be in familiar surroundings. Samuel Sloan made repeated and extensive allegations of misconduct on the part of his brother regarding his mother's financial affairs, none of which are substantiated by other evidence before the Court.
After listening carefully to the testimony of the witnesses and giving particular credence to the testimony of Dr. Haas, examining the documentary evidence introduced, and judging the credibility and bias of the witnesses, the Court finds and concludes as follows:
1 . That the Court has jurisdiction of the parties and of the subject matter of this action. Samuel Howard Sloan made an issue of whether the Court had jurisdiction over this matter due to his mothers fairly recent arrival in Aiken. However, the Court finds that Mrs. Sloan is physically present within the county and there is no evidence that she intends to leave. Additionally, while Samuel Sloan objected to the lack of notice of the hearing, he filed at least two (2) lengthy responses with the Court prior to the date of the hearing and was present throughout the hearing thereby waiving any jurisdictional objection.
2. That the Court finds through personal observation and conversation with Mrs. Sloan as well as the medical and lay testimony presented, Helen Marjorie Sloan is an incapacitated person and in need of a Conservator and Guardian.
3. That the most suitable person to serve as Guardian of Mrs. Sloan is her son, Creighton Wesley Sloan, who offers his mother a stable environment where her physical, emotional and medical needs are being adequately met. His appointment as Guardian should continue until further order of the Court.
4. That Mrs. Sloan's incapacity demands that she also have a Conservator. However, the Court is denying Creighton Wesley Sloan's petition for appointment as Conservator due to the long history of rivalry and conflict between the two brothers over their mothers affairs. The best interests of Mrs. Sloan will be served by the appointment of an independent Conservator. At the direction of the Court at the conclusion of the hearing, the Guardian ad Litem has researched the various financial institutions having a presence in Aiken County which offer trust services. Her recommendation is that NCNB National Bank of South Carolina be appointed as permanent Conservator for Mrs. Sloan and the Court accepts that recommendation.
5. That all parties were directed to account for the assets of Mrs. Sloan to the best of their knowledge with counsel for the Petitioner instructed to furnish that information to the trust officer having responsibility for the Sloan account. The bank, in turn, needs to expeditiously identify and protect the assets of Helen Marjorie Sloan.
6. That all parties should refrain from interfering with any person involved with this case and the DSS investigation should continue, with its final report to be made a part of the record in this case.
7. That Paige Weeks Johnson has rendered a valuable service in her capacity as Guardian ad Litem and, based upon her representation of the number of hours she has expended on the case, should be awarded a fee of Seven hundred fifty ($750.00) dollars to be paid by the temporary or permanent Conservator.
8. That NCNB National Bank of South Carolina should be indemnified for the acts or omissions of any prior fiduciary for Helen Marjorie Sloan until the time of its appointment and receipt of the assets of Mrs. Sloan. IT IS THEREFORE
ORDERED that Creighton Wesley Sloan be appointed as the Guardian for Helen Marjorie Sloan until her death or further order of the Court. It is further
ORDERED that NCNB National Bank of South Carolina be appointed as Conservator of the property of Helen Marjorie Sloan until her death, its resignation as Conservator, or the further order of the Court. The Conservator shall immediately identify and secure all assets of Helen Marjorie Sloan, being responsible only for the assets so identified and those delivered to it by the temporary Conservator, Samuel Howard Sloan, and any other fiduciary for Mrs. Sloan. NCNB shall be entitled to accept the statement of prior fiduciaries without any duty of inquiry into the administration or accounting by a prior fiduciary and shall not be responsible for or by reason of any act or omission of such prior fiduciary prior to its appointment herein. By virtue of NCNB being a domestic corporation, bond shall not be required. It is further
ORDERED that NCNB National Bank of South Carolina shall be entitled to receive compensation for its services as Conservator in accordance with its standard fee schedule in effect at the time such services are rendered. It is further
ORDERED that all persons involved in this case are prohibited from interfering with the Conservator or Guardian appointed herein and that the Aiken County Department of Social Services shall continue its investigation as it deems appropriate with the final report of such investigation to be made a part of this record. It is further
ORDERED that Paige Weeks Johnson be awarded a fee of Seven hundred fifty ($750.00) dollars for her services as Guardian ad Litem in this case.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
SUE H. ROE, Probate Judge of
Aiken, South Carolina