The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sullivan, Presiding Justice
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/27/1997
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHN C. ROSS, JR.
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: TISHOMINGO COUNTY CHANCERY COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - WILLS, TRUSTS AND ESTATES
DISPOSITION: REVERSED AND REMANDED - 3/25/1999
MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:
¶1. This is an appeal from the "Opinion and Judgment" rendered by Honorable John C. Ross, Jr., Chancellor of the Chancery Court of Tishomingo County, Mississippi, involving the Estate of Nancy A. Johnson, deceased. The gross estate of Ms. Johnson was determined by the court to be $3,101,804.34, and the beneficiaries of her estate were five heirs at law.
¶2. On September 18, 1997, Ralph Sexton (hereinafter "Sexton"), the administrator of Ms. Johnson's estate, through his attorney, Lloyd Moore (hereinafter "Moore"), filed an Accounting and Petition to Confirm Sale of Property, Personalty, and Coins and for Partial Disbursement of Assets. Contained in this petition was a request for administrator's fee, attorney's fee and accountant's fee.
¶3. Bob Rich, co-conservator of Pauline Rich, one of the heirs at law, objected to these fees. On the 17th of October, 1997, this case was set for a hearing. Four of the five heirs at law either executed "Joinder and Waiver of Process and Entry of Appearance" forms or chose to attend the hearing.
¶4. After receiving testimony and evidence at the hearing, the chancellor took the motion under advisement and entered his two-page Opinion and Judgment of the Court on October 27, 1997, denying the objections of Rich and allowing Sexton an administrator's fee of $108,563.15, Moore an attorney's fee of $108,563.15 and accounting fees to Danny Lindsey of $30,000. Aggrieved by the trial court's decision, Rich perfected this appeal raising the following issue:
I. WHETHER THE CHANCELLOR ERRED IN HIS AWARD OF ADMINISTRATOR'S, ATTORNEY'S AND ACCOUNTANT'S FEES?
Rich requests that this Court set aside the chancellor's award and assess a reasonable administrator's, attorney's and accountant's fees based upon the proof presented to the court below.
¶5. Nancy A. Johnson died intestate on October 18, 1996, and Letters of Administration were issued to Sexton as Administrator on November 13, 1996. A Notice to Creditors was filed on November 13, 1996, and the usual claims were made against the estate from its inception in November of 1996 until this petition was heard in October of 1997. Moore was employed as attorney for the estate by Sexton and handled those duties from the inception. Danny Lindsey, C.P.A., was employed as the accountant by Sexton. Lindsey had prepared Ms. Johnson's income tax returns in the past and had knowledge of her finances. Also, Lindsey had prepared the income tax returns of Ms. Johnson's father and mother and their estate tax returns.
¶6. Sexton, Moore, and Lindsey were charged with the responsibilities and duties of administering a $3,101,804.34 gross estate with the goal of preserving as much of the estate's assets as possible for distribution to the five heirs at law.
¶7. Approximately twelve (12) months from the time Temporary Letters of Administration were issued, Sexton, by and through Moore, filed an Accounting and Petition to Confirm Sale of Realty, Personalty, ...