What do you get when you mix together a former chancery clerk, over a million dollars, and an elderly man suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's? A disgusting tale told by Jerry Mitchell in yesterday's Clarion-Ledger:
Thomas Edward Bradshaw Jr. planned to leave the bulk of his $1.6 million estate to Mississippi State University — until former Chancery Clerk Murphy Adkins became his conservator.
Months after being appointed in late 2009, Adkins drove the elderly man, diagnosed by doctors as suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease, to an attorney’s office, where Bradshaw signed a new will, leaving his entire estate to Adkins.
“Mr. Bradshaw executed the 2010 will under suspicious circumstances,” wrote MSU’s lawyer, Robert F. Walker. “Mr. Adkins is the sole beneficiary of the 2010 will and was in a fiduciary and confidential relationship with Mr. Bradshaw at the time the 2010 will was executed.”
Adkins told The Clarion-Ledger that Bradshaw was functioning well and told Adkins one day that he was being added to the will—something he said he never sought.
He doesn’t remember Bradshaw having Alzheimer’s, but does recall a doctor’s letter mentioning dementia, he said. “Some of us all suffer a little dementia.”
Perhaps Mr. Adkins is the one who suffers from a little dementia. One would expect a former chancery clerk to know the man was elderly and at that point not in sound mind. Whatever happened to just saying no? But I digress.
The attorney general’s office investigated the matter and concluded from watching a video of Bradshaw talking with his lawyer that the senior citizen showed “no signs of illness” in discussing the 2010 will....
Since Bradshaw had no heirs or close family members, he discussed leaving his money to a college, eventually establishing a trust for MSU backed by his commercial property.
On March 28, 2007, Bradshaw executed a trust, leaving $25,000 to a longtime housekeeper, Louise Wilson, and the rest of his estate to MSU, which recognized the gift in the alumni magazine.
His short-term memory failing, he began to fill his kitchen bar with stacks of to-do reminders, according to Bradley.
Three months later, Bradshaw wrote Benton James a $5,000 check — a check Bradley said Bradshaw told him was a loan.
By the end of 2008, the millionaire had made out checks to James totaling $115,000, according to canceled checks and other records.
Worried about Bradshaw, his longtime lawyer, Don McLemore, and Bradley formed the “Protection Committee.”
McLemore confronted Bradshaw about what kind of hold James, a ballroom dance instructor, had on him.
“He fixes me up with pretty ladies,” he quoted Bradshaw as replying.
“Tom, this is $50,000,” McLemore said he told him.
“They’re pretty ladies,” Bradshaw reportedly replied.
James pleaded guilty to felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult and was ordered to repay the money.
On April 29, 2008, Bradshaw signed a new will, leaving $25,000 to Wilson and $100,000 for his cocker spaniel.
Bradshaw was “very attached to the dog,” Bradley replied. “He said, ‘I want Tonto taken care of.’”
Bradley said he knew Bradshaw wanted to leave his two daughters something. In that will, one daughter received a book collection and the other a replica of a King Tut statue.
Bradshaw also left Bradley $100,000 — something Bradley said he was surprised to learn afterward.
The rest of his estate would go to MSU, and Bradshaw signed a commitment leaving $1.6 million to the university, which established the T.E. Bradshaw Memorial Endowed Scholarship....
By 2008, friends noticed Bradshaw was slipping, and physicians suggesting he stop driving.
“Due to his advanced Alzheimer’s disease, he is incompetent in making his own decisions, including financial decisions,” Dr. Tammy Young wrote in a Sept. 29, 2008, letter.
Bradley went with Bradshaw to the doctor and recalled what happened: When the doctor asked what day of the week it was, Bradshaw was uncertain. Asked what month it was, he remained uncertain. Asked the year, he replied, “1957.”
On Nov. 5, 2008, Bradley filed a petition for Bradshaw’s conservatorship noting the retired businessman had been diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s.
The judge initially chose Bradley, but the real estate agent proved too ill with heart and cancer problems to handle it.
On Jan. 26, 2009, Grant appointed Brandon lawyer John McLaurin Jr. as guardian ad litem.
Ten months later, the judge selected former Rankin County Chancery Clerk Murphy Adkins as conservator.
Bradley remained on as an adviser, and he and Adkins spent three hours talking, Bradley sharing the elderly man’s history, according to records.
Adkins said he knew Bradshaw through Kiwanis Club and he hired a college student to help check on Bradshaw and his dog .
Months later, Bradshaw “asked me one day to take him to see an attorney,” Adkins said. “I didn’t question that. I just passed over it and went on. He asked me again the next time about an attorney.”
Bradshaw asked him what lawyer he recommended, Adkins said. “I named several attorneys in Brandon, and he selected one.”
That happened to be David Morrow.
On their way to the office, Adkins said he asked why they were going. “I’m going to make a will,” he quoted Bradshaw as replying.
As they pulled into the parking lot, he said Bradshaw told him, “I’m going to leave everything to you.”
He said he responded, “Whoa. I’m not sure you can do that with me being your conservator.”
The lawyer and Bradshaw “talked in my absence,” Adkins said. “The attorney said he needed to do research.”
Six months after Adkins became conservator of Bradshaw’s estate, he also became the sole beneficiary. “Believe it or not, we never discussed the will,” he said.
In that new 2010 will, Bradshaw is quoted as saying that Adkins “helped me greatly in the last years of my life” — even though Adkins acknowledged he had never been in Bradshaw’s home prior to becoming conservator.
Adkins’ logs show that as Bradshaw’s conservator, he averaged between 10 and 31 hours’ work each month between October 2009 and May 2010.
“I have previously made a specific gift of some real estate … to Mississippi State University,” Bradshaw is quoted as saying in his 2010 will. “I hereby give, devise, bequeath and gift all of the property that I may own at the time of my death … to Murphy Adkins, my friend and conservator who has helped me greatly in the last years of my life.”
Bradshaw was quoted as saying he knew the gift “may seem unusual, but I have no spouse, no children, no close living family, and few friends. Murphy Adkins has been a friend to me and cared for me....
Asked if Bradshaw suffered from Alzheimer’s at the time, Adkins replied, “I don’t recall.”
He did recall one doctor mentioning a diagnosis of dementia.
Bradshaw “was living alone, taking care of his daily needs, taking care of his dog, still driving his car,” Adkins said. “He seemed always able to answer questions I had of him.”
Seven months after signing the will, Bradshaw went to the hospital. He wound up in Peach Tree Village Retirement Community, where he broke his hip twice before being moved to Mississippi State Veterans’ Home in Jackson.
He died there on New Year’s Eve.
Now the fun starts. Amazing what money will do to people.
In the days following the funeral, Bradley said he met with Adkins about the 2010 will that excluded the university.
“I knew Mr. Bradshaw was a man of commitment,” Bradley said. “That was his legacy to leave the money to these kids.”
In fact, he said Bradshaw kept a framed copy of the “thank you” letter MSU sent him inside his home.
What convinces Bradley the 2010 will fails to represent Bradshaw’s wishes is the fact the elderly man excluded his beloved cocker spaniel. “He loved that dog more than anybody anywhere,” Bradley said.
In court documents, MSU’s lawyer said Adkins “was present during all or a majority of the time in which the 2010 will was discussed, created and executed” at Morrow’s law office.
Adkins replied that he was not present for the will and was asked to leave by the lawyer.
MSU’s attorney, Walker, wrote that the 2010 will was “procured by Mr. Adkins through undue influence and at a time when Mr. Bradshaw was vulnerable, both physically and mentally, and did not possess the requisite mental capacity to execute the 2010 will.”
Nothing stopping Mr. Adkins from honoring the previous will, is there? The problem is the law places few restraints on what a conservator can do. One suspects there are more cases such as this one throughout Mississippi.