IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF LISA HOLLY SOJOURNER, DECEASED: BARBARA Y. SOJOURNER, KAREN SOJOURNER, KATHERINE CLAIRE SOJOURNER, AND THE MADISON ARK APPELLANTS
SUSAN S. CAMPBELL APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 10/21/2016
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. EDWARD E. PATTEN JR. JUDGE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: JOHN W. CHRISTOPHER
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: OLEN C. BRYANT JR. TIMOTHY L. RUTLAND
GRIFFIS, P.J., CARLTON AND WILSON, JJ.
This appeal concerns a chancellor's denial of probate of
a last will and testament based on undue influence. We find
no error and affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Lisa Holly Sojourner died June 28, 2015, at the age of 53.
She was survived by many family members including her mother,
Barbara Sojourner, her two sisters, Karen Sojourner and Susan
Campbell, her adopted sister, Denise Sojourner Thompson, her
nieces, Karen's daughters, Jennifer "Nicole"
Sojourner Kueck and Katherine "Claire" Sojourner,
and her grandniece, Nicole's daughter, Hannah Sojourner.
On September 15, 2015, Susan filed a petition for letters of
administration and to determine heirship. Thereafter, on
September 28, 2015, Karen filed a petition to probate
Lisa's last will and testament. In response to
Karen's petition, Susan filed a complaint to contest the
validity of the will. A trial on the merits was subsequently
held in the Chancery Court of Copiah County.
At trial, testimony revealed that Lisa had an IQ of
seventy-four. Her reading recognition was at a fifth-grade
level, and her reading comprehension was at a third-grade
level. Additionally, Lisa was in the ninth percentile for
reading and spelling, and the first percentile for
arithmetic. As a result of her mental condition, a
conservatorship was established for Lisa and her estate in
In July 1999, Lisa executed a last will and testament.
Thereafter, on June 4, 2002, Lisa executed a codicil to the
will. Pursuant to Article V of her will, Lisa devised her
interest in all real property to her nieces, Nicole and
Claire, in equal shares. Pursuant to Article VI, Lisa devised
all of the residue of her property, real or personal, to her
grandniece, Hannah, her nieces Nicole and Claire, and her
mother, Barbara, in equal shares.
In 2012, Lisa developed colon cancer. Karen became Lisa's
primary caregiver. During Lisa's illness, Lisa, Karen,
and Susan were involved in a contested partition of land
involving a sizeable amount of property acquired from their
father. As a result, Karen retained attorney G. Michael
Massey to represent her in the dispute.
In 2013, Lisa was diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer. On
June 27, 2013, Lisa executed a second codicil to her will,
which was prepared by Massey. Pursuant to the second codicil,
Article V was amended to devise Lisa's interest in all
real property to her nieces, Nicole and Claire, and her
sister, Karen, in equal parts. Additionally, Article VI was
amended to leave $5, 000 each to Lisa's nephew, John
Parker Campbell, and her niece, Dabney Campbell. All of the
residue of Lisa's property, real or personal, was devised
in equal shares to her grandniece, Hannah, her nieces Nicole
and Claire, her mother, Barbara, and her sister, Karen.
As a result of her failing health, Lisa moved into
Karen's house in January 2014. On April 23, 2014, Lisa
executed a new will, prepared by attorney Elise Munn. Under
the new will, Lisa left $1, 000 to her nephew, John Parker,
her nieces, Dabney and Nicole, her grandniece, Hannah, and
the Madison Ark. The remainder of Lisa's property was
left to her sister, Karen, and her niece, Claire.
According to Munn, Lisa was not happy with the way her will
was written and wanted specific changes made. Munn was the
attorney for Lisa's conservatorship and was aware of
Lisa's medical condition. However, Munn was unaware of
Lisa's IQ level or her specific weaknesses in reading,
spelling, and arithmetic. Munn testified that she knew there was
a lot of animosity among the family, and she was aware of the
partition dispute wherein the three sisters, Lisa, Karen, and
Susan, each owned a one-third interest in a very valuable
piece of property. Munn stated that she was ...