A prominent northern Utah family is getting some dirty laundry aired in court.
Marie Holbrook, the mother of former Davis County Commissioner J. Dell Holbrook, Morgan County Sheriff Bert Holbrook and Weber County businessman Lee Holbrook, is suing her sons for allegedly defrauding her out of part of her house and some cash.According to the complaint filed last week in 2nd District Court, J. Dell Holbrook used undue influence on his 80-year-old mother, who was grieving over the death of her husband, Dell Holbrook, last March, to get her to convert her Bountiful home into joint ownership with her sons.
A notary public signed the new deed, but Marie Holbrook says she can't remember a notary being present.
The complaint also states that J. Dell Holbrook borrowed $8,000, which he purported to pay back with a bounced check, and has been less than forthcoming on life insurance payments from the death of his father, reporting proceeds of only $3,965 and not specifying where that money was put. In addition, Marie Holbrook maintains that J. Dell Holbrook, who was a signatory on her checking account, wrote $3,900 in checks from that account for his personal benefit.
The sons' attorney and longtime friend of J. Dell Holbrook, Wesley Argyle, said none of this should have ever made it into court.
"I just think it's really unfortunate - this is one of those things that should have been handled in the family," Argyle said. "The first they heard about it was when they got a call from her attorney."
Marie Holbrook's attorney, Wendell Bennett, was unavailable for comment.
The mother is living in a remote area of Washington state with Bob Holbrook, the half-brother of the three defendants, and J. Dell Holbrook said the suit is a result of his mother listening to Bob Holbrook.
With regard to the house, "the family was just trying to resolve how the mother should do her estate planning," Argyle said. "It's a way of dealing with things, and she needed help."
He added that a joint ownership arrangement is common in order to avoid going through complicated probate proceedings when the parent dies.
Argyle said he preferred not to comment on the loans to J. Dell Holbrook, saying it was "a fairly complicated issue" that would be addressed in his answer to the complaint.
J. Dell Holbrook said the loans were from his father but were viewed simply as gifts at the time. When his half-brother demanded repayment, he gave him a check saying not to cash it for a few days since funds weren't available, but Bob Holbrook cashed it immediately, with predictable results.
Argyle called the life insurance claim "a really odd situation - that one is really kind of an egregious claim. They have all the records; we don't have any. They're calling on us to go out and prove something (on which) they have all the proof."
Bert and Lee Holbrook are not speaking to the media on the matter.
Argyle said the estate is a small one and not worth all the money that's going to be spent duking it out in court. The property comprises the house, worth about $125,000 according to the complaint, and three bank accounts containing a few thousand dollars.
"We're just trying to keep a commitment we made to our dad to take care of mom," J. Dell Holbrook said. "I'm a little bit offended that it's become a media deal. I would like to have some semblance of dignity for my family."