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In re Mace

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 22, 2013

In the Matter of the Estate of George William MACE, Deceased: Ruth Colbert, Appellant
v.
Patricia GARDNER, Executor, Appellee.

Page 676

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 677

Davey L. Tucker, attorney for appellant.

Wren Carroll Way, Vicksburg, attorney for appellee.

Before IRVING, P.J., ROBERTS, CARLTON and JAMES, JJ.

ROBERTS, J.

¶ 1. Ruth Colbert appeals the Hinds County Chancery Court's decision to deny her petition to set aside George William Mace's will. According to Colbert, Mace lacked the testamentary capacity to execute his will. Colbert also claims that the chancellor should have set aside Mace's will because it was the product of Patricia Gardner's undue influence over Mace. Finding no error, we affirm the chancellor's judgment.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 2. Mace never married, but Colbert is his biological daughter. She was born in 1943, but she did not have a close relationship with Mace. She testified that she never lived with him, and she moved to Illinois when she was seven or eight years old. When Colbert was eleven or twelve years old, Mace called her at her home in Illinois. According to Colbert, during that telephone conversation, Mace said that he wanted to " take care of her." But Colbert testified that to her knowledge, Mace never actually provided for her. The record indicates that Mace and Colbert did not communicate for some time after that.

¶ 3. Approximately forty years later, Mace and Colbert met face-to-face for the first time that Colbert could remember. Colbert testified that Mace acknowledged that she was his daughter when they met in 1994. However, in 1996, Mace did not name Colbert as a beneficiary of the joint will that he executed with his brother, Theodore Roosevelt Mace. Mace appointed Theodore as the executor of his will, and named him as the primary beneficiary. Mace also listed a number of his extended family members as secondary beneficiaries under the 1996 joint will.

¶ 4. In 1999, Mace's great niece, Gardner, moved into Mace's home to help both Mace and Theodore. Essentially, Gardner acted as their caregiver. She also cooked, cleaned, performed household duties, and drove them to their appointments. During 2000, Theodore moved into a nursing home. Gardner continued to live with Mace. In general, Gardner continued to help Mace with tasks that he was not physically capable of performing by himself. However, Mace continued to pay his own bills, handle his own finances, and manage his business affairs.

¶ 5. On February 1, 2003, Mace revoked his 1996 will. Nine days later, Mace executed a new will. Mace's 2003 will was somewhat similar to his 1996 will in that he did not list Colbert as a beneficiary; he appointed Theodore as the executor of his will; and he named Theodore as the primary beneficiary of his estate. But in the event that Theodore predeceased Mace,

Page 678

Gardner was appointed as the successor executor of Mace's 2003 will, and one of the secondary beneficiaries of his estate.[1] Mace also listed other family members along with Gardner as secondary beneficiaries of his 2003 will. However, Mace omitted ...


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