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In re Estate of Flowers

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

February 6, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF BRENDA LOUISE BARGAS FLOWERS:
v.
THE ESTATE OF BRENDA LOUISE BARGAS FLOWERS, THROUGH ITS EXECUTOR, KNOX LEMEE FLOWERS, CECIL C. LANG AND LINDA S. LANG APPELLEES CLAIRE C. FLOWERS AND BRENDA JANE FLOWERS PAIXAO APPELLANTS

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/06/2016

         LEFLORE COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. MICHAEL H. WARD JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: DAVID NEIL MCCARTY

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: FLOYD M. MELTON JR. RICHARD A. OAKES FLOYD M. MELTON III

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

          CARLTON, J.

         FOR THE COURT:

         ¶1. Claire Clements Flowers (Claire) and Brenda Jane Flowers Paixao (Jane) appeal the judgment of the Leflore County Chancery Court denying their request for an accounting of the estate and testamentary trust of their mother, Brenda Bargas Flowers, and finding that they had no current interest in their mother's estate. Claire and Jane also appeal the chancery court's denial of Claire's motion for leave to amend several of her previously filed petitions.

         ¶2. Upon review, we affirm the chancellor's denial of Claire's motion to amend her petitions. However, we find that Claire and Jane have limited rights and related standing as holders of a shifting executory interest to prevent future waste, and we therefore find that the sisters have standing to request an accounting of their mother's estate and testamentary trust pursuant to their limited rights.[1] As a result, we reverse the portion of the chancellor's judgment denying their request for an accounting, and we remand this case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         FACTS

         ¶3. Richard and Brenda Flowers married and had three children: a son, Knox Lemee' Flowers, and two daughters, Claire and Jane. In 2004, Claire gave birth to a son, D.A.[2]Richard and Brenda adopted D.A. in 2005. On April 15, 2006, Richard passed away. About three months later, on July 24, 2006, Brenda executed her last will and testament. Almost a month later, on August 25, 2006, Brenda passed away.

         ¶4. Brenda's will appointed Knox as her estate executor and provided that he "serve without bond, inventory, appraisal[, ] or accounting to any [c]ourt." The will also established a trust that named D.A. and his descendants as the income beneficiaries. The will provided for the trust's termination either at the time of D.A.'s thirtieth birthday or his death, whichever event occurred first. The will further stated that, at the time of termination, the trust's assets were to be divided evenly between D.A. and Knox. The will then granted Claire and Jane a shifting executory interest by providing that, if both D.A. and Knox passed away without any descendants before the trust's termination, the trust's assets were to be distributed to Claire and Jane as beneficiaries, either directly or through conservatorships. While the will relieved the trustees from having to render a periodic accounting to any court, it stated that the trustees "shall . . . account fully and completely annually, throughout the term of this [t]rust, to such income and/or corpus beneficiaries as there may be or[, ] in the event such beneficiary is a minor or a ward, then to such beneficiary's guardian."

         ¶5. As stated, a month after executing her will, Brenda passed away on August 25, 2006. Her will was probated in Leflore County, and Knox was appointed her estate executor. Also upon his mother's death, Knox was appointed executor de bonis non of his father's estate. In November 2007, the chancery court awarded custody of D.A. to his paternal grandfather and step-grandmother, Carter and Linda Lang. In a subsequent judgment, the chancellor found that adoption by the Langs served D.A.'s best interests.

         ¶6. On February 8, 2008, Chancellor William Willard signed an order that addressed the disposition of numerous motions and petitions filed below by the parties. In so doing, the chancellor granted Claire's requests to withdraw her previously filed motion for an accounting of her mother's estate and her petition for Knox's disqualification as estate executor. The chancellor further ordered that upon the closing of Brenda's estate, Knox, as executor, take the following actions:

[L]ist the household goods and personal belongings of Brenda . . ., as well as lockbox contents[, ] that came into his possession as [e]xecutor and . . . 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 [e]xecutor's fee, as may be determined and approved by this [c]ourt[; and]
[F]urnish an accounting of [Brenda's] [e]state from the date of death to the date of any final decree granting Claire . . . [g]uardianship 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.

(Emphasis added).

         ¶7. Despite withdrawing her prior motion for an accounting, on August 7, 2015, Claire filed a petition for a full accounting of her mother's estate and testamentary trust. Claire's petition alleged that Knox and others associated with the administration of Brenda's estate had mismanaged and misappropriated estate and trust assets. Claire's petition further contended that, even though she was a remainder beneficiary of her mother's will, she still possessed the standing to demand an accounting. Jane also joined Claire's petition for a full accounting.

         ¶8. On September 15, 2015, Claire filed a petition for relief from various chancery court judgments, and a petition for compensatory and punitive damages. On January 4, 2016, she filed an amended petition for compensatory and punitive damages. In her amended petition, Claire sought to include claims against the various attorneys who represented the interests of Brenda's estate, the testamentary trust, and D.A.'s guardianship. On January 8, 2016, Claire filed a motion seeking leave under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) to admit her amended petition for compensatory and punitive damages. On January 19, 2016, Judge Michael Ward, who was specially appointed to the case, dismissed the claims against the attorneys after he found that Claire had failed to state a claim under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). On February 16, 2016, Claire filed a motion for leave to amend her petition under Rule 15(a). Claire's motion asked that she be allowed to amend her petition to include the claims against the attorneys and to allege "fraud and negligence per se with the correct specificity."

         ¶9. Each of the attorneys responded to Claire's motion to amend. In their responses, the attorneys noted that Claire had failed to "attach a proposed amended petition that would permit the [c]ourt to determine whether justice requires that leave to amend be granted." Furthermore, due to their prior dismissal from the litigation, the attorneys argued ...


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