BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, C.J.; ROBERTSON AND ZUCCARO, JJ.
ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:
This is a rather sad case in which circumstances and human frailty have somehow placed family members at each other's throats. At issue is a rather modest estate of a now 87-year-old woman whose sister and niece have become alienated from her late husband's family. In an effort to achieve peace the Chancery Court appointed the niece and the late husband's grand-nephew as co-conservators. Still, only strife, acrimony and charges of wrongdoing and outright theft
continue to be hurled back and forth.
On appeal, a wide variety of rulings by the Chancery Court have been challenged. We have taken these quite seriously and have studied them with care. In the end we may only conclude that in each instance the Chancery Court was either correct as a matter of law or acted well within its discretion or made findings of fact supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.
Arlelia Stallings was born in 1901. She and her husband, Rev. Matthew Jasper Stallings, lived together in their home in Greenwood until the Reverend's death on January 1, 1980. Sometime after her husband's death, Stallings went to live with her sister, Rosa Stewart, in Starkville. Stewart is the mother of Co-Conservator Nausead Stewart. This arrangement lasted until Christmas, 1981, when Stewart went to New York to visit relatives for the holidays. During Christmas, 1981, Stallings went to spend the holidays with some of her husband's family at their Starkville home. She moved into Curtis and Annie Bush's home at that time and, as far as the record reflects, she has remained there ever since. Annie Bush is Rev. Stallings niece and Co-Conservator Bush's mother.
Co-Conservator Bush has lived in Greenwood since 1968 when he moved there to become a teacher in the Greenwood Public School System. In May, 1983, at the time of this conservatorship hearing, Herman Bush lived in Stallings' house rent-free. He also managed Stallings' rental property, collected the rental income for her, and looked after any business affairs that she requested. Co-Conservator Bush had begun to help Rev. Stallings with his business affairs approximately six months before the Reverend's death. Arlelia Stallings testified that everything that Co-Conservator Bush did he did at her request and that she trusted him implicitly and didn't even ask him questions concerning how he conducted her business affairs. None of the parties to this action or witnesses at the conservatorship hearing dispute the above facts.
The dispute at the time of the conservatorship hearing centered around whether or not Stallings was in need of a conservator. Stallings, Co-Conservator Bush, and Annie Bush were of the opinion that she did not need any help. Co-Conservator Stewart and her mother, Rosa Stewart, were of
the opinion that Stallings did need a conservator. Everyone, including Stallings herself, believed or conceded that she was forgetful. It was apparent during questioning by counsel for both parties, that Stallings did not have a good grasp of dates or the extent and complete nature of her holdings. She was, however, aware that she had filed suit against her sister to recover some property and generally knew what property she owned. It was generally agreed that at no time in her life had Stallings concerned herself with business affairs. She did not even do the grocery shopping. Her husband did.
On January 28, 1983, Arlelia L. Stallings and Annie M. Bush, her niece, filed in the Chancery Court of Oktibbeha County a petition to determine need for a conservator of Stallings' estate. Rosa Stewart, Stallings' sister, entered her appearance in the matter. On May 18, 1983, the Court entered its order establishing the conservatorship and appointing Nausead Stewart and Herman Bush as co-conservators "to take care of her [Stallings] estate." By a subsequent order of August 14, 1984, the establishment of the conservatorship was confirmed. The inventory subsequently filed reflects a personal estate of $93,894.00, plus interests in three pieces of real property the value of which is not given.
Numerous motions, proceedings, hearings, and orders appear in the record thereafter. We will mention those below only as necessary to considerations of the issues addressed in this opinion. Suffice it to say that Co-Conservator Stewart is unhappy with just about everything the Chancery Court has done since day one.
Co-Conservator Stewart argues that the Chancery Court erred in refusing to allow her to appeal without costs and to supersede the judgments below without bond. In this she is partially correct.
Miss. Code Ann. 11-51-99 (Supp. 1987) provides that conservators appealing orders affecting them in their fiduciary capacity "shall have a supersedeas on such appeal, without bonds for supersedeas; but they shall pay the costs of the lower court including the Supreme Court filing fee." This amended version of Section 11-51-99 has been in effect since 1978. See also Conservatorship of Harris v. King, 480 So. 2d at 1133 ("thus, the statute by its character does say
that such a conservator is entitled, on appeal, to a supersedeas without bond.")
On the other hand, Section 11-51-99, by its language, requires Stewart to pay court costs and transcription costs. It appears from the record that the chancery court was never presented with the opportunity to deny or grant Stewart supersedeas without bond. However, 11-51-99 mandatorily requires supersedeas without bond in the present ...