COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: WINSTON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/21/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. EDWARD C. FENWICK. TRIAL COURT DISMISSED IDA M. BLACK'S CHALLENGE TO LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF CARL BLACK.
FOR APPELLANTS: PAUL M. NEVILLE.
FOR APPELLEES: JOHN DICKSON MAYO, JAMES MAYO.
BEFORE LEE, C.J., ROBERTS AND CARLTON, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, ISHEE, CARLTON, MAXWELL, FAIR AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR.
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - WILLS, TRUSTS, AND ESTATES
¶1. Carl Black executed two wills, one in 2007 and another in 2009. The 2009 will expressly revoked all prior wills. Carl passed away, and one of the devisees of the 2009 will, his stepson, Jerry Clark, petitioned the Winston County Chancery Court to probate the 2009 will. Carl's sister-in-law, Ida M. Black, counterclaimed, arguing she was wrongfully excluded from the 2009 will. Ida asserted the 2007 will should be given effect over the 2009 will. Jerry filed a motion to dismiss Ida's counterclaim, and after a hearing, the chancery court granted Jerry's motion to dismiss. Ida appeals, raising four issues that can be summarized as: whether the chancellor erred in finding the 2009 will unambiguous, thereby precluding consideration of parol evidence as to Carl's intended disposition of his property. Finding no error, we affirm.
¶2. In 2007, Carl executed a will leaving his entire estate to his brother, Ivy Black. The will contained a savings clause that provided, if Ivy predeceased him, his entire estate would be left to Ivy's wife, Ida. Ivy was named executor, with Ida as an alternate executor. Subsequently, in 2009, Carl executed a new will. This will was prepared by the same attorney who prepared the 2007 will. The 2009 will revoked all prior wills, and further changed the devisees. Under this new will, Ivy's share was reduced, and Ivy, Jerry, and Jerry's son, Shane Clark, were all left specific devises. Additionally, the will contained a remainder clause leaving the rest of the estate to Ivy, Jerry, and Shane to " share and share alike." As in the 2007 will, Ivy was named as the executor. However, unlike the 2007 will, the 2009 will made no mention of Ida. Ida was not left a specific devise; nor was she named in the savings clause to take Ivy's share in the event Ivy predeceased Carl; nor was she named as an alternate executor.
¶3. Ivy died on April 19, 2011, and Carl died four days later, on April 23, 2011. Jerry petitioned to probate the will. Ida counterclaimed and asserted the 2007 will, rather than the 2009 will, expressed Carl's true intent as to the disposition of his estate. Basically, Ida asserted Carl could not have intended the share left to Ivy to pass to Ivy's intestate heirs. After an evidentiary hearing, the chancery court dismissed Ida's counterclaim.  Ida filed a motion for reconsideration, and after another hearing, the chancery court denied the motion for reconsideration, leading to this appeal.
¶4. A chancellor's factual findings will not be disturbed if supported by substantial evidence, but if an erroneous legal standard ...