Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Helen Brach: Gone But Not Forgotten

Court Battles

But $20 million cannot just be left sitting in a bank account waiting for someone who may or may not ever return. Helen Brach might have been eccentric and a bit reclusive, but she was not stingy with her money and those who had enjoyed her largess over the years were not about to let things change simply because Helen wasn't around to sign the checks.

There were bills to pay and expenses that had to be managed and someone was going to have to be in charge. The man with the strongest argument that it should be him was Everett Moore, Helen Brach's personal accountant. Moore had been running Helen's day-to-day accounting needs since before Frank Brach died and he was the man who was most familiar with how she spent her money. The credit card bills, charity requests, tax bills and the like all went to Moore and in the spring of 1977, he asked the Cook County Probate Court to appoint him administrator over Helen's estate.

There was a small problem. Helen Brach was a co-trustee of the Helen Brach Trust set up under Frank's will. The other trustee was Continental Illinois Bank. Continental felt that it, not Moore, should be in charge of Brach's money, because it had fiduciary responsibility over the trust in her absence. If the trust were mismanaged in Helen's absence, Continental Illinois would be responsible. In essence, Moore could make bad decisions with Helen's money and if she ever returned, she could sue Continental for Moore's mistakes. The bank wanted no part of that.

Thus began the most intense legal scrutiny of Helen Brach's disappearance. Interestingly, it wasn't the fact that Helen was gone that prompted it, but that she left $20 million behind.

The judge in the case wisely decided that a disinterested third party should undertake an investigation of the matter, sort out who was deserving of continued charitable support and who should have authority to make decisions for Helen Brach and the trust. He appointed the former head of the Chicago Bar Association, John Cadwallader Menk, to be guardian ad litem in the matter. In effect, Menk was charged with trying to find out as much about the disappearance of Helen Brach as he could and to get inside her head to find out how she wanted her money spent.

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