ANDERSON — Local attorney Steve Schuyler wrote checks to himself equaling 88 percent of the $200,000 estate of Sara Wilding, according to a report filed with the court this week.
Schuyler was removed from handling any estates and cases in which he had a fiduciary interest by Criminal Magistrate Stephen Clase in February after a check written by Schuyler to a local church bounced.
Attorney Bill Byer Jr., named by Clase to be the personal representative in the Wilding case, filed an accounting with the court on Monday.
The account showed that Wilding, who died April 12, 2012, left an estate worth $200,440.
In his report, Byer said there are no assets remaining and that Schuyler received $177,339. Byer notes in his report to the court that must of the funds obtained by Schuyler were through counter checks.
“We left the Wilding estate open,” Clase said Thursday. “We want to see if there will be further action by the heirs.”
The accounting shows that as specified in Wilding’s will, Joyce Blake and the Madison County Humane Society received $500 each; Phyllis Murphy received $1,000, and Cheryl Johnston received $5,000 and $9,485 as executrix of the estate until Schuyler was named administrator in September 2012.
Court records show that in November 2012 Schuyler wrote checks on the estate’s account to himself in the amount of $52,000. A $14,000 counter check was written on Nov. 27 and two days later, a check for $13,000 was cashed by Schuyler.
On Aug. 13, 2013, Schuyler closed the account by receiving $17,904. From May, 2012 through August, 2013 Schuyler wrote 35 checks to himself from the Wilding estate.
Anderson Police Detective Joel Sandefur said no one has filed a complaint with the police department. If a complaint is filed, a police investigation can be opened.
The problems with the Wilding estate surfaced last year when Schuyler wrote a check for $78,387 to the East Lynn Christian Church, which bounced because of insufficient funds.
Wilding’s will specified that the church was to receive any remaining assets from her estate for its building fund.
Attorney Patrick Cunningham, representing the church, 522 E. 53rd St., said he has filed a motion with the court to gather additional information on the Wilding estate and an individual checking account.
Cunningham said church trustees are meeting in the next couple of days to discuss what action to take regarding the estate.
"Somewhere along the line we knew there was a zero balance," he said. "Something is going to have to be done, there is no question about it."
Last month, Clase removed Shuyler from 135 estate guardianships in which he was acting as personal representative.
Clase said attorneys have been assigned to all 135 cases, and guidelines for handling the cases have been established.
“The attorneys will investigate the cases,” he said. “None of the cases will be closed.”
During his initial appearance before Clase when asked where the money was from the Wilding estate, Schuyler took his Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination.
At the time, Clase said a complaint had been filed by the court with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission concerning the Schuyler’s handling of the estate.
In 2008, Schuyler received a public reprimand from the disciplinary commission for a violation of the Indiana Professional Conduct Rule. The censure dated to 2001, when Schuyler represented the estate of Esther Chapman.
According to court documents, Schuyler’s paralegal was accused of writing nine unauthorized checks totaling $34,000 on the estate’s account. In 2002, Schuyler made no effort to ensure that a final accounting accurately reflected transactions in the account.
Anderson police investigated, and the paralegal, who resigned in 2003, pleaded guilty to theft. The funds were repaid to the Esther Chapman estate by Schuyler.
In 2012, Schuyler was again upbraided by the commission after he failed to submit a written response to allegations of professional misconduct. The courts sought to have Schuyler immediately suspended from the practice of law in Indiana for failing to cooperate with its investigation.
Details regarding the allegations are confidential, but on Feb. 4, 2013, the commission filed a motion to dismiss the proceeding "as moot" after Schuyler provided the information that had been requested. He was required to pay $517.49 to reimburse the commission for expenses.
As of Friday, the disciplinary commission had taken no disciplinary measures against Schuyler regarding the complaint by Clase .