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THOMASINA BLISSARD, FRANCES B. BOECKMAN, JO ANN BLISSARD BOMAR, JAMES CLAUDE HIGHTOWER, III, AND MARY LYNN HIGHTOWER SPEARS v. ESTATE OF THERA B. WHITE

NOVEMBER 25, 1987

THOMASINA BLISSARD, FRANCES B. BOECKMAN, JO ANN BLISSARD BOMAR, JAMES CLAUDE HIGHTOWER, III, AND MARY LYNN HIGHTOWER SPEARS
v.
ESTATE OF THERA B. WHITE, DECEASED



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, C.J.; ROBERTSON AND GRIFFIN, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

This is a confidential relationship/undue influence case arising out of a squabble between family members because the oldest sister's will favored baby brother. Five nieces and nephews mount the challenge. The Chancery Court held the testatrix competent and that her will was not procured by undue influence. Accepting established limitations upon our scope of review, we affirm.

II.

 A.

 Thera B. White died on June 6, 1984, at the age of ninety-one. Her heirs-at-law consisted of two brothers and two sisters as well as the children of two deceased sisters and one deceased brother. However, the will contested here left her estate to one of her brothers, Dwight Blissard (now approximately 78 years old).

 The spurned nieces and nephews are: Dr. Thomasina Blissard, Francis B. Boeckman and Jo Ann Blissard Bomar, the children of Thera's deceased brother; Thomas L. Blissard, deceased; and James Claud Hightower, III, and Mary Hightower Spears, the children of Thera's deceased sister; Jimmie Grace Blissard. These five are the will's contestants.

 Thera's husband, Campbell, had died in 1964, and Thera went to live with her spinster sister Gladys in Okolona. Dwight lived with his wife about a mile away and, as Thera did not drive, did much of the "leg work" for Thera when Gladys was not available. Dwight visited his sisters about once a week unless they needed him more often. He also took them to Florida once, and to Birmingham two times to see their brother. In 1980, Thera paid one-half of the price of a Toyota she and Dwight purchased and put in his name.

 In September of 1974, Thera executed a general power of attorney empowering Dwight to act on her behalf. She did this, Dwight testified, because a brother of theirs had just died of a stroke and they had had a grandmother who was an invalid for years because of a stroke. Incapacity from stroke was something they all feared, and Thera made out the power of

 attorney so that Dwight could help her in that event. It was Thera, who came up with the idea, and Dwight was not present when she signed the power of attorney. Dwight used the power of attorney only to do what his sister desired him to do.

 After receiving the power of attorney, Dwight became the only one to enter Thera's lock box. For consideration of $10.00 in cash, Thera conveyed her undivided five-eighths interest in the family estate to Dwight, reserving only a life estate for herself. In May of 1975, Thera was told by John Sibley, Esq., of Okolona, the lawyer who had prepared the deed that a correction deed was needed, and Sibley took care of that.

 In March of 1977, Thera made out her will. Dwight testified that he was first aware of it when she handed it to him and told him to put it in the lock box. Prior to making the will, however, Thera deeded her house to Gladys.

 Dwight's name was on Thera's certificates of deposit as well as her checking account. Dwight testified that Thera had wanted his name on them and that he regularly deposited her money for her, wrote checks on her account to pay her bills, and placed the CDs where they could earn the highest interest - all at Thera's request.

 Dwight maintained that he and his eldest sister had always been close. When Dwight was born, his mother was ill and Thera fed him and took care of him. She was his first teacher. So, when "it was my time to help take care of her . . . I would have done anything she asked me to do."

 Thera was in a nursing home twice for a total of a year and a half (once because of a broken hip and then for six months prior to her death). But Thera was mentally fit all of her life and quite ...


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