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In re Estate of Byas

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

June 13, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF VIVIAN BYAS, DECEASED: VICTOR BYAS AND MARY BYAS APPELLANTS
v.
PAULETTE BYAS APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/12/2015

         COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: SUNFLOWER COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. MARIE WILSON JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: ALSEE MCDANIEL

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: VALLRIE LANETTE DORSEY

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES AND FAIR, JJ.

          LEE, C.J.

         ¶1. In this case, we must determine whether the chancellor erred in finding both Victor Byas and Mary Byas in contempt. Because the record contains insufficient evidence of contempt regarding both Victor and Mary, we reverse and render.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. This case stems from a probate matter filed by Paulette Byas in the Sunflower County Chancery Court. Paulette's mother, Vivian Byas, died on June 18, 2014. Victor, Mary, and Paulette are three of Vivian's children.[1] Paulette filed a petition to probate Vivian's will. After a hearing, the chancellor entered an order on August 13, 2014, to continue the probate matter. The chancellor also ordered the parties involved to remove their personal belongings from Vivian's house. The chancellor ordered that the house be vacated and remain locked until the matter was resolved. The chancellor further appointed Victor to "temporarily collect rental income, [and] pay the mortgages of [Vivian] along with the utilities and homeowners' insurance." The locks on the house were changed, and the keys were retained by the Sunflower County Chancery Clerk.

         ¶3. On October 27, 2014, Paulette filed a motion for contempt, alleging that Victor and Mary had entered the house in violation of the previous order. Paulette claimed that Mary had been living in the house.

         ¶4. After a hearing on February 12, 2015, [2] the chancellor found both Victor and Mary in contempt for failing to abide by the court's prior order. The chancellor fined Victor $250 and Mary $500. The chancellor also ordered Victor and Mary to be equally responsible for $677 in attorney's fees.

         ¶5. Victor and Mary now appeal, arguing the chancellor erred in finding them in contempt.

         FACTS

         ¶6. Paulette testified at the hearing that someone told her Victor and Mary had been seen going in and out of Vivian's house after the chancellor ordered the house be vacated. Paulette stated she saw Mary's car in the driveway on one ...


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