IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF RICHARD HAROLD FLOWERS, JR.: CLAIRE C. FLOWERS AND BRENDA JANE FLOWERS PAIXAO APPELLANTS
THE ESTATE OF BRENDA LOUISE BARGAS FLOWERS, THROUGH ITS EXECUTOR DE BONIS NON WITH WILL ANNEXED, KNOX LEMEE FLOWERS, CECIL C. LANG AND LINDA S. LANG APPELLEES
OF JUDGMENT: 05/06/2016
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. MICHAEL H. WARD
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: DAVID NEIL MCCARTY
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: FLOYD M. MELTON JR., FLOYD M. MELTON
III RICHARD A. OAKES
GRIFFIS, P.J., CARLTON AND GREENLEE, JJ.
Claire Flowers and Brenda Jane Flowers Paixao (Jane) appeal
the final judgment entered by the Leflore County Chancery
Court in the probate of the estate of their father, Richard
Harold Flowers Jr.
On appeal, Claire and Jane assert the following assignments
of error: (1) their brother, Knox Lemee Flowers, lacked
standing to be named executor of Richard's estate; (2)
the chancellor's final decree failed to follow
Richard's intent as expressed in his will; (3) the
chancellor erred in awarding attorneys' fees to
Knox's attorneys; (4) the chancellor erred by denying
Claire and Jane's Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure
15(a) motion to amend their petition. We find no abuse of
discretion by the chancellor, and we therefore affirm.
See generally Nichols v. Phillips (In re Estate of
Brill), 76 So.3d 695, 698 (¶13) (Miss. 2011).
On December 19, 2001, the Leflore County Chancery
Court appointed Brenda Bargas Flowers to
represent her husband, Richard Flowers Jr., as his
conservator due to Richard's physical and mental
incapacity and inability to manage his affairs and his
On December 14, 2005, Richard and Brenda filed a petition to
adopt D.A.,  the biological child of Richard and
Brenda's daughter, Claire. The chancellor granted the
petition on December 15, 2005, and entered an order of
adoption, stating that D.A.
be, and he is hereby decreed to be, the child of [Richard and
Brenda], who shall have the exclusive custody of [D.A.], and
equal parental rights, duties and responsibilities of and
toward him to the extent they both were his natural parents
with all the incidents, mutual rights, privileges, benefits,
duties and responsibilities arising from a natural born
parent and child relationship[.]
order also provided that D.A. "shall inherit from and
through" Richard and Brenda.
Sadly, the record reflects that on April 25, 2006, a few
months after adopting D.A., Richard died. In his last will
and testament, dated January 21, 1983, Richard named his
widow, Brenda, as the executor of the estate. Brenda filed a
petition to probate the will, and on July 14, 2006, the
chancellor appointed Brenda as executor of Richard's
estate. Regarding the appointment of alternate executors,
Richard's will specified:
[I]f [Brenda] fails to qualify or ceases to act, I appoint as
executrix of this will my wife's biological mother, Helen
Audry Creasay Baker, to serve . . ., or should she fail to
qualify or cease to act[, ] I appoint as executor of this
will The First Greenwood Bank, a Branch of Grenada Bank, in
Richard left to Brenda all of his "clothing and personal
effects, all boats, boat trailers, boat motors, and all
automobiles and vehicles" registered in his name, and
stock, among other things. Richard expressed in his will that
he made no disposition of household furniture or chattels
located in his and Brenda's residence, as the items also
belonged to Brenda.
Significant to the issues raised in this appeal, Richard
further devised all of his "residuary estate, being all
property, real and personal, wherever situated, in which [he]
may have any interest at the time of [his] death not
otherwise effectively disposed of . . . to Brenda . . .
should she survive [him] for a period of 179 days[.]"
Richard's will explained that should Brenda fail to
survive Richard for 179 days, the property would then be held
in a trust for his son, Knox; daughter, Claire; and
any other child or children born to my wife,
Brenda[, ] . . . and me, in such proportions and in such
manner as my trustee shall deem necessary or desirable in
their absolute discretion, for the beneficiaries' health,
education, welfare, support and maintenance in their
accustomed manner of living.
Richard's will further provided as follows:
This Trust shall exist until the youngest living child of
mine and my wife attains the age of twenty-five years, at
which time the trust will terminate and all the remaining
assets of this Trust shall be conveyed and delivered, to my
children, Claire Clements Flowers, Knox Lemee Flowers and
any other child or children born to my wife,
Brenda Bargas Flowers, and me, in equal shares, per
Brenda began her duties as executor after her appointment on
July 14, 2006. However, Brenda died on August 25, 2006,
approximately 122 days after Richard's death.
Brenda's will named Knox as the executor.
On September 6, 2006, Knox filed a petition for appointment
as Executor De Bonis Non with Will Annexed (hereafter
"Executor"). In his petition, Knox acknowledged that
Richard's will named Brenda as executor of Richard's
estate. Due to Brenda's death, Knox requested to be
substituted as Executor of Richard's estate. Knox also
filed a petition to probate Brenda's estate and requested
that a guardian ad litem be appointed for D.A., who was two
years old at the time of the filing.
The record reflects that while Knox served as Executor of
Richard's estate, the chancellor approved and authorized
Knox's sale of real property owned by Richard's
estate as follows: (1) a May 16, 2008 order approving the
sale by Knox of real property located at 304 East Monroe
Street, Greenwood, Mississippi, for the amount of $65, 000,
less the prorated taxes for the year 2008, a six-percent
commission to Bowie Realty in the amount of $3, 900, and a
termite inspection in the amount of $107; (2) a September 11,
2009 order approving the sale of real property located at 306
West Church, Greenwood, Mississippi, for the amount of $20,
200 and authorizing the execution of any and all documents
necessary to complete the sale, less the prorated taxes for
the year 2009 in the amount of $1, 225.32, and a six-percent
commission to Bowie Realty in the amount of $1, 212. The
record shows that all of the beneficiaries of Richard's
will received notice of the sale of the real property. The
chancellor then ordered Knox, as Executor, to deposit the
balance of the funds in the estate account.
Additionally, in his capacity as Executor of Richard's
estate, and again with notice to all of the intended
beneficiaries named in Richard's will, Knox liquidated
Richard's investment account and deposited the balance of
the funds in the estate account.
The record reflects that during the course of the lengthy
litigation below, Claire filed several motions relating to
Richard's estate, including a December 2007 motion
seeking a full accounting of Richard's estate and
Brenda's estate, and a January 2008 motion to disqualify
Knox as the Executor. The chancellor addressed all of
Claire's motions in an order dated February 8, 2008. The
chancellor ultimately ordered as follows:
The Conservatorship [of Richard by Brenda] is terminated and
. . . .
Knox, as Executor of [Brenda's Estate], . . . will list
the household goods and personal belongings of Brenda . . .,
as well as lockbox contents that came into his possession as
Executor and will state where these items are presently
located, and any items converted to his personal possession
or disposed of for his benefit will be noted and charged
against any Executor's fee, as may be determined and
approved by this Court.
. . . .
Knox, as Executor of [Brenda's Estate], shall furnish an
accounting of the Estate from the date of death to the date
of any final decree granting [Claire] Guardianship of [D.A.]
due to the appeal on file at this time . . . and that
[Claire] is entitled to an accounting, if and when she
becomes a vested remainder beneficiary of this estate from
the date of such vesting until delivery of assets to her.
. . . .
[T]he probated claim of [Claire] . . . is granted in the
amount of $1, 200.00 and this court authorizes and directs
[Knox] to pay said sum in full satisfaction of the probated
record also reflects that in the February 2008 order, the
chancellor granted Claire "leave to withdraw her
Petition for Disqualification of [Knox as the] Executor
(Fiduciary) dated January 28, 2008, " and ruled that
"it is therefore withdrawn."
Claire later filed a motion requesting that the chancellor
recuse himself, claiming that she discovered evidence of
judicial misconduct. The chancellor denied Claire's
motion, stating that Claire failed to present any facts to
substantiate her allegations. The chancellor also admonished
Claire "for bringing frivolous motions."
On September 4, 2009, Claire filed her second motion for
disqualification of Knox as executor of Richard's estate,
arguing that Knox failed to follow the instructions of
Richard's will since no residuary or assets passed to
Claire or Knox as bequeathed in Richard's will. Relative
to this claim, the record reflects that the chancellor found
that no assets remained to pass to the beneficiaries of
Richard's will. Claire further asserted that
Richard's will provided that an accounting shall be done
by the executor and given to the heirs once a year. Claire
claimed that Knox failed to provide an accounting as
requested by the will.
Claire also argued that Richard's will provided that
Brenda is to be named executor, and that if Brenda should
fail to qualify as executor, then Richard's will named
Brenda's mother, Helen Baker, as the alternate executor.
Claire claimed that Helen informed Claire that she was never
approached to be executor of Richard's will and did not
know that Richard named her as an alternate executor in his
The chancellor held a hearing on the matter on September 11,
2009, and ultimately denied Claire's motion to disqualify
Knox as Executor. The chancellor found that Claire presented
no facts to substantiate her claims that Knox should be
disqualified as Executor. The chancellor also found that
Claire's motion was "substantially the same petition
and claims as . . . filed . . . on January 28, 2008, by
Claire, and was set to be heard on February 1, 2008, when
[Claire] was granted leave of the court to withdrawn her
petition." As a result, the chancellor admonished Claire
for bringing repetitive and frivolous motions.
Over the next several years, Claire filed numerous petitions
revolving around the care and adoption of D.A. On August 19,
2013, the chancellor entered a decree of adoption stating
"[D.A.], a child born on July 10, 2004, be and is hereby
adjudged and declared to be adopted by [his paternal
grandparents, ] . . . Cecil Carter Lang and wife, Linda S.
Lang, and that the said child and the [Langs] be given and
accorded all of the rights, benefits and responsibilities
arising from a natural born parent and child
On April 15, 2015, Claire filed a petition for a full
accounting, asserting again that she believed that Knox
misappropriated funds and chattels belonging to Richard's
estate, and that Knox mismanaged the estate to the detriment
of the heirs and against the instructions of Richard's
will. As stated, Claire's claims of mismanagement stem
from the lack of sufficient assets in Richard's estate to
pass to the will's beneficiaries.
The record reflects that on September 15, 2015, Claire,
acting pro se, filed a 616-page pleading in the trial court
challenging prior rulings and raising various claims for
relief. In this 616-page pleading, Claire set forth petitions
for the following: (1) a trial by jury, (2) a change of
venue, (3) relief from the judgments, and (4) requested
compensatory and punitive damages. Claire named her sister,
Jane, as an interested party.
In this 616-page pleading, Claire set forth her petition for
relief from the judgments, claiming that she was entitled to
relief from the prior orders of the chancellor, including the
final decree of adoption of D.A., due to fraud,
misrepresentation, negligence, and misconduct by numerous
parties, including Knox, Floyd Melton Jr. and Floyd Melton
III (Knox's attorneys), Cecil and Linda Lang, and Richard
A. Oakes Jr. (attorney for the Langs). Claire asserted that
the numerous chancellors assigned to this action acted
in ways prejudicial to the administration of justice and to
the ideas of "fair" hearings. The [d]efendants,
including the chancellors, intentionally made their actions
and inactions so convoluted between the cases to ensure that
no one would be inclined to assist Claire with correcting the
great injustice that has occurred.
In this same petition for relief from the judgments, Claire
further asserted that Oakes and the Langs were brought into
these cases to ensure that D.A. was kept away from her, and
to "ensure that their own pockets were lined with funds
'legally obtained' through the court, a court which
was prejudicial and unable to provide the appropriate
administration of justice." Claire also alleged that the
Langs and Oakes ensured the Langs would wrongfully obtain
Social Security death benefits on behalf of D.A. by keeping
his last name as Flowers and not notifying Social Security ...