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Jeffers v. Saget

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 21, 2017

KAPPI SAGET JEFFERS APPELLANT
v.
KORRI SAGET APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/29/2015

         WARREN COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. MARIE WILSON, TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: DAVID M. SESSUMS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: WREN CARROLL WAY

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES AND CARLTON, JJ.

          BARNES, J.

         ¶1. 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.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. 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.

         ¶3. 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.

         ¶4. 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.

         ¶5. 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.

         ¶6. 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 ...


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