OF JUDGMENT: 07/29/2015
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. MARIE WILSON, TRIAL JUDGE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: DAVID M. SESSUMS
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: WREN CARROLL WAY
GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES AND CARLTON, JJ.
Kappi Saget Jeffers contested the validity of her late
mother's will and the conveyance of assets related to
investment-fund accounts. The will contest, before a jury,
ended in a mistrial, but the chancellor, as finder of fact,
denied Jeffers's petition and counterclaim to recover
assets, specifically the investment accounts. On appeal, we
find that the chancellor's entry of judgment regarding
the investment accounts was not a final, appealable judgment
under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). Therefore,
we must dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Rae Saget died on January 6, 2014, survived by two daughters,
Jeffers and Korri Saget. Prior to her death, Rae had executed
three wills. In a 2004 will, she left a diamond ring to
Saget, a ruby ring to Jeffers, and her remaining property to
be equally distributed between Saget and Jeffers. In 2008,
Rae executed a second will, again leaving the bulk of her
estate to be divided equally between her daughters. However,
Rae's most recent will, executed on August 23, 2012,
bequeathed all her property to Saget, except for one diamond
ring, which she bequeathed to Jeffers.
Rae also had investment accounts with Morgan Stanley. From
2006 to 2012, both daughters were designated as equal
beneficiaries of the accounts. However, on August 22, 2012,
Rae appeared alone at the Morgan Stanley offices and signed
forms making Saget the sole beneficiary of the accounts.
After Rae's death, Jeffers filed a Caveat Against Probate
(Cause No. 2014-008-PR) on February 7, 2014, arguing that
Rae's August 23, 2012 last will and testament was a
product of undue influence and should be declared void. On
February 18, 2014, Saget filed a petition to open the estate
and for appointment of an executrix (Cause No. 2014-010-PR).
An order opening the estate was entered, and Saget was
appointed as executrix. Jeffers subsequently filed a motion
to set aside the order and consolidate the causes and a
motion to freeze assets.
On March 11, 2014, Jeffers filed a petition for letters of
administration and for the recovery/collection of estate
assets in Cause No. 2014-008-PR. The petition specifically
referenced the Morgan Stanley investment accounts and argued
that Rae lacked capacity to put Saget's name on the
account. The chancery court consolidated the two cases into
Cause No. 2014-008-PR, appointed both Jeffers and Saget as
co-adminstratrixes, and granted Jeffers's motion to
freeze the assets. Then, on March 31, 2014, Jeffers filed an
answer to the petition to probate the will and a counterclaim
to contest the will and set aside the conveyance of personal
property and to recover assets. In the petition, she argued
that the most recent will, and the document changing the
beneficiary of the Morgan Stanley accounts, were void.
On May 27-30, 2015, jury proceedings were held in chancery
court regarding the will contest. The proceedings ended in a
mistrial. Although the claim regarding the Morgan Stanley
accounts was not submitted to the jury, the chancellor
discussed whether to enter an order regarding the accounts.
As both attorneys had no additional evidence to present, they
agreed to the entry of an order, although Jeffers's
attorney did express concern as to whether the entry of such
an order could result in "inconsistent" holdings.
The chancellor entered a "Final Judgment" on August
4, 2015, denying Jeffers's petition for the
recovery/collection of assets and the counterclaim to set
aside the conveyance of personal property and for recovery of
assets. The order noted that the issue of the will's
validity was still pending.
¶7. Because the judgment was not certified pursuant to
Rule 54(b), we find that the chancery court judgment was not
a final, appealable judgment, and this Court ...