CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court has disciplined a Raleigh County attorney for her lack of diligence in settling a Boone County woman's estate.

The Court on June 19 accepted the recommendation of its Lawyer Disciplinary Board to reprimand Karen E. Acord, 57, a sole practitioner in Beckley. The Court's decision caps a nearly five-year legal battle Acord had with beneficiaries to the estate of Anna Beatrice Elizabeth Diem that twice already made its way to the Court.

In September 2008, Melissa Perry and Rachael McKnight, Diem's foster granddaughter and foster daughter, respectively, petitioned the Raleigh County Commission to have Acord removed as executrix. They maintained she failed to "perform any work in advancing the closing of the Estate other than taking care of the disposition of two cats."

A month later on Oct. 6, Perry filed an ethics complaint against Acord that ultimately led to the Board filing its statement of charges against Acord. In her complaint, Perry accused Acord of, among other things, not getting properly bonded before becoming executrix, issuing checks to herself from the estate while neglecting to pay its bills and failing to respond to requests for information from the heirs.

Acord on Dec. 2, 2008, filed suit in Raleigh Circuit Court seeking an injunction enjoining the Commission from removing her as executrix, and Perry and McKnight from interfering with her duties. Two weeks later, Perry and McKnight countered with a suit seeking a court order removing Acord as executrix.

Eventually, Judge Robert Burnside ordered Acord removed as executrix, and she turn everything in her possession regarding Diem's estate to Perry. When Acord failed to do so by May 3, 2010, he held her in contempt.

Though he ordered her incarceration, Burnside allowed Acord to remain free in order to file a writ of habeas corpus to the Court, which it eventually denied on June 22, 2010. Likewise, the Court on Sept. 22 declined to hear Acord's appeal seeking to overturn Burnside's order removing her as executrix.

After the Court denied her habeas corpus petition, Acord delivered the contents of a safe deposit box Diem had at United Bank in Beckley to Robert Sayre, the special commissioner Burnside appointed to oversee Diem's estate. Later on July 7, Acord delivered to Sayre $25,442.33 Diem had at the Whitesville State Bank.

Also on July 7, Acord notified Burnside she intended to keep the original records of the estate's administration and seek additional relief with the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, on July 19 Sayre issued a report to Burnside he believed Acord turned over to him all assets belonging to Diem's estate.

Along with the reprimand, the Court ordered Acord to refund the estate $800, and take an additional three hours of continuing education specifically in ethics and/or office management. The reprimand is the first formal disciplinary action taken against Acord since her admission to the Bar on May 21, 1973.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number 11-1356

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