Widow alleges step-children blocking her from husband's death benefits
The wife of a recently deceased man claims she should receive the money he designated for her, not the man's children who currently have possession of the funds.
Belinda Smith filed a lawsuit Aug. 28 in Jefferson County District Court against Derrick Glen Smith, Angelique Voncehlle Smith, David Lee Smith, Lekeisha Smith and Debbie Jo Smith.
In her complaint, Belinda Smith alleges she was married to Leroy Smith at the time of his death on Aug. 19. His health had been declining for a number of months, and Belinda Smith contacted his children to notify them of his status, according to the complaint.
"On or around May 25, 2014, defendants came to the home of Leroy and Belinda," the suit states. "Defendants clandestinely removed Leroy from his home with the understanding that he would spend the day with them and then be returned back to his home that evening. Leroy never returned to his home."
While Leroy Smith was in the defendants' custody, all money held in a JP Morgan Securities account was transferred into an unknown account. Belinda Smith is the named beneficiary of the JP Morgan Securities account, but is not able to access the money, according to the complaint.
The defendants also pulled money from the joint account of Leroy and Belinda Smith and transferred it into another unknown account, the suit states.
Leroy Smith also had life insurance through Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. Although Belinda Smith had been named as a beneficiary of that account, she alleges the defendants changed the policy to name themselves as beneficiaries.
Leroy Smith also maintained a savings plan, of which Belinda Smith was named as a beneficiary, however, the lawsuit alleges the defendants also changed the beneficiary status on that account.
In addition, Belinda Smith alleges the defendants took a 2008 Nissan A5S Coupe that Leroy and Belinda Smith owned together, the suit states.
On Aug. 14, Belinda Smith learned that her husband had been placed in Harbor Hospice, the complaint says. When she attempted to visit him, she was forced to leave because Leroy Smith did not recognize her and believed he was still married to his ex-wife.
Following Leroy Smith's death, the defendants refused to pay for his funeral, according to the complaint.
"Leroy suffered from terminal cancer and was taking morphine and/or other pain relievers," the suit states. "At all times material to this litigation, Leroy lacked the capacity to make any transactions or transfers, change any beneficiary designations or enter into a contract because Leroy did not understand the nature and consequences of his acts and the business he was transacting."
Belinda Smith says the defendants tortiously interfered her inheritance rights.
She seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent the defendants from transferring or spending the funds in the accounts they formed using Leroy Smith's money and a temporary restraining order to prevent the defendants from selling or transferring the Nissan to somebody else.
She also seeks a judgment that any beneficiary designations or changes be declared void, plus actual damages, pre- and post-judgment interest at the legal rate, costs and other relief the court deems just.
Terry W. Wood of Beaumont will represent her.
Jefferson County District Court case number: B196-063
This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed at Jefferson County District Court. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note that a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt and it represents only one side of the story.