Family disputes PA woman's will naming pastor as beneficiary

Marilyn Tennissen Jun. 9, 2009, 10:56am

The relative of a deceased Port Arthur woman is asking a judge to reject a version of the woman's will that leaves her inheritance to a local preacher.

Richard Nicholson of Houston filed contests the validity of the will of Marshall Jean Nicholson dated Nov. 30, 2007. The court papers were filed June 5 in the Probate Court of Jefferson County.

According to the documents, the Rev. Randy Vaughn filed an Application to Probate Will and for Issuance of Letters of Testamentary which offered the 2007 document as Marshall Jean Nicholson. An order admitting the will to probate was entered on Feb. 6, 2008.

"The factual history of this matter is particularly sordid, and is an unfortunate example of a pastor and a church abusing their positions of trust and authority out of greed, callously praying upon a helpless Church member for monetary gain and inflicting pain and suffering on family members," the complaint states.

Marshall Jean Nicholson was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor on Nov. 28, 2007, documents say, after she became confused and could not remember specific questions that she was being asked. She died on Dec. 12, 2007, two days after having brain surgery.

Richard Nicholson alleges that prior to her death, "Pastor Vaughn quickly had Ms. Nicholson sign a new will, which not surprisingly left the vast majority of her estate to Pastor Randy Gene Vaughn, his church, Mt Sinai Baptist Church, and his family members."

According to Richard Nicholson, there exists a prior will from February 1992 which left her estate to family members. He alleges that the new will was obtained "in secret."

Since then, both witnesses to the signing and the notary have not cooperated with investigators who tried to determine the will's legitimacy.

The court document claims Vaughn has acted "smugly" and berated the family members. Richard Nicholson alleges the church board members have also been uncooperative and made "terroristic threats to investigators and have engaged in other intimidation tactics," the document states.

If Marshall Jean Nicholson did execute the November 2007 will, then it was only as a result of "undue influence" over her by Vaughn, the contestant claims.

Richard Nicholson alleges the decedent lacked the testamentary capacity required to make a valid will in November 2007.

He is asking that the court set aside the Order Admitting Will to Probate entered on Feb. 6, 2008, and is seeking other relief to which he may be entitled.

Richard Nicholson is represented by John S. Morgan of Harris, Duesler & Hatfield in Beaumont.

Vaughn is represented by Langston Scott Adams of Port Arthur.

Probate Court Cause No. 96,017

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