Aiken, SC funeral home says people want to ‘destroy’ him in suit about disputed will

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An Aiken funeral home owner is suing two people who he claims are trying to “destroy” him in the latest legal action surrounding a woman’s last will and testament estimated to be worth millions.

Cody Lee Anderson, owner of George Funeral Home, is seeking more than $10 million from the woman’s former lawyer and accountant claiming they slandered and defamed him.

The new lawsuit, filed Tuesday, claims that the duo are enacting a “scheme to destroy” Anderson “personally and professionally.”

Anderson’s suit says that the two “maliciously slandered and defamed” him “throughout the community” in a previous lawsuit.

The legal action is the latest chapter in a dispute that began this year over a woman’s estate worth millions.

The case goes back to 2001 when accountant Wanda F. Scott and lawyer William Ray Massey worked with Margaret Crandall, then-wife of a wealthy nuclear scientist, to put together her will, according to court documents.

Shortly after Crandall’s death in December at 88 years old, a second will made in 2020 was discovered. The only people named in the document were Anderson and a former business partner. Scott and Massey sued, calling the 2020 document an “illegitmate will,” resulting in the document being discredited.

“With over 70 years combined practice in accounting and law respectively, Wanda Scott and Ray Massey are experienced professionals who sought only to protect Margaret Crandall and her estate, not ‘destroy’ Cody Anderson or anyone else,” said William Newsome, the attorney for Scott and Massey. “There has been no defamation, (and) this lawsuit is a ridiculous attempt to deflect from the truth, and we look forward to sharing the facts through the legal process — again.“

Anderson has asked for a jury trial and wants to be awarded at least $10 million for funeral home income he’s lost because of negative perceptions of him following unfounded claims that he swindled an elderly woman and was part of a conspiracy to alter her will, his lawsuit says.

The money will also cover legal fees and constitute punishment for those he says have defamed him.

Attorney John Harte of Aiken is representing Anderson.

Slandered and defamed claims

The slander lawsuit follows civil legal action filed in January by Scott and Massey against Anderson.

The January lawsuit alleged that Anderson and Thomas Bateman Jr. preyed on Crandall, who suffered from dementia, in her last years. The duo dissolved Crandall’s last wishes by tricking and coercing her into creating the “Illegitimate Will” in 2020 that benefited Anderson and Bateman, the suit alleged.

Crandall’s estate was estimated to be worth more than $8 million. The entire estate would have been left to Bateman if the 2020 document had been upheld, the suit said.

Scott and Massey dropped the suit in April after Anderson and his partner said they were no longer pursuing their claim to Crandall’s estate.

Anderson and Bateman quit their claim when witnesses to the 2020 document testified under oath in affidavits that they didn’t know what they were signing and didn’t see Crandall when they put their signature on the document that Bateman presented, legal filings showed.

The slander suit by Anderson says that the issue with the witnesses’ signatures was a “technical failure” in the creation of the 2020 will.

Anderson’s suit says that he was slandered and defamed when Scott and Massey made several claims, including: that he isolated and preyed on Crandall during her declining health and old age; that he cleaned out and attempted to sell her home; that he acted as her lawyer when he wasn’t actually a lawyer; and that he provided false information in preparing the 2020 “will.”

Scott and Massey did no investigation and had no evidence before making the claims against Anderson, his lawsuit says.

‘ill will’

Scott and Massey were motivated by “ill will” and a “personal vendetta” in filing their January lawsuit, Anderson alleges in his complaint.

Scott and Massey were angered over Anderson’s friendship with Crandall, which he had maintained since he was a boy. Their January suit was meant to be a distraction from the fact that Scott and Massey had neglected to adequately represent Crandall, according to Anderson’s claim.

Scott and Massey didn’t want the 2020 document to stand because it would stop them from collecting benefits and fees, Anderson says in his suit.

Scott and Massey’s suit against Anderson was “frivolous” and an “abuse” of the legal process, Anderson claims. The two have continued to slander Anderson and threaten future lawsuits despite having no basis, according to the latest complaint.

Newsome, the attorney for Scott and Massey, pushed back against the claim that the January suit was unwarranted.

“Not only was the initial lawsuit not frivolous, it resulted in getting Cody Anderson’s sham will thrown out,” Newsome said.

When 2020 document was thrown out, Anderson agreed to have no claim to Crandall’s estate. The court declared her will from 2001 her legitimate last testament.

That will named relatives, including distant ones living in Germany and Brazil, as beneficiaries. It also named as beneficiaries Smith College of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the South Carolina Nature Conservatory, two Catholic churches in New York and South Carolina and genealogical societies.

Anderson’s past headlines

Anderson had waded into controversy and headlines in the past.

In 2017, the Aiken Standard named him to its class of “Young Professionals to Follow.”

The next two years he was in the Aiken Standard again, this time for being the new owner, at age 31, of George Funeral Home. The funeral home is a pillar of Aiken, having been founded in 1920.

In 2019, Anderson ran for the state House to replace Aiken Rep. Ronnie Young after his death, the August Chronicle reported. He lost the election.

Anderson’s run of positive press ended last year after he purchased a historic Aiken mansion. The Aiken Standard reported in 2021 on a lawsuit that claimed Anderson had not paid the seven-figure required under the deal to the mansion’s sellers.

By July, the two sides had settled the dispute.