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In re Estate of Saget

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

April 3, 2018

IN RE ESTATE OF RAE C. SAGET: KAPPI SAGET JEFFERS APPELLANT
v.
KORRI SAGET APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/30/2017

          WARREN COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. MARIE WILSON TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: DAVID M. SESSUMS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: WREN CARROLL WAY

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

          GREENLEE, J.

         ¶1. This appeal arises from Kappi Saget Jeffers challenging the validity of changes made by her mother, Rae Saget, to beneficiary designations for four of her mother's investment accounts, and her mother's will. The issue before us is the validity of her mother's changes to the beneficiaries for the investment accounts. The issue of the will's validity is not before this Court.[1] Following the trial on the will's validity, the parties agreed that the necessary proof was before the court and a final judgment should be entered regarding the beneficiary designations for the investment accounts. In her final judgment, the chancellor found that Rae possessed the capacity to make the changes to her investment-account beneficiaries. The chancellor also found that Kappi failed to prove undue influence by clear and convincing evidence. Concerning the allegation that Korri Saget, Kappi's sister, had unduly influenced Rae, the chancellor did not find that the required confidential relationship existed between Korri and Rae. Rather, the chancellor discussed the testimony presented on whether a confidential relationship existed. Kappi appeals from this decision. Finding no error, we affirm.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         ¶2. Rae died on January 6, 2014 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Her husband predeceased her, and Rae was survived by her two children Kappi and Korri. Kappi lived in Vicksburg, and Korri lived in Houston, Texas. At the time of her death, Rae owned four investment accounts.

         ¶3. Rae opened these four investment accounts with Kerry Ricks at Morgan Stanley Financial Service Company in 2006. One of these accounts, an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), required at least one named beneficiary. Rae named her daughters as equal beneficiaries. The other three accounts, known as Transfer-on-Death (TOD) accounts, did not require a named beneficiary, but rather that Rae designate to whom the money was to be transferred upon her death.[2] Rae designated that the money in these accounts should transfer to both daughters equally upon her death.

         ¶4. For the next eight years-from 2006 until her death-Ricks assisted Rae with her Morgan Stanley accounts, usually speaking with her about her investments twice a year. On August 22, 2012, Rae called Ricks and gave him instructions to remove Kappi as a beneficiary on the IRA and to remove her as a transferee (beneficiary) upon death from the other three accounts. Later that same day, Rae arrived alone in Rick's office and signed the required paperwork, removing Kappi from all four of her Morgan Stanley accounts. Rae died over a year later on January 6, 2014.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶5. On February 18, 2014, Korri filed a petition to probate Rae's will followed by Kappi's "Answer to Petition to Probate Will and Counter-Complaint to Set aside Conveyance of Personal Property and for recovery of Assets." In her answer and counter-complaint, Kappi alleged that Rae's 2012 will was invalid because Rae lacked testamentary capacity and the will was a product of undue influence, requesting a trial by jury on that issue. She also alleged that Rae lacked capacity to put Korri's name as the sole beneficiary and that the change in beneficiary was a product of undue influence. The issue of the will's validity was tried before a jury and resulted in a mistrial.[3]

         ¶6. Additionally, the parties agreed that the evidence presented to the jury during the will contest was the same evidence involved in Kappi's assertion that the change in investment-account beneficiaries was a product of undue influence. Therefore, the attorneys, presenting no more evidence, agreed that a judgment could be entered regarding the investment accounts. Accordingly, the chancellor entered a "Final Judgment" denying Kappi's petition for the recovery/collection of assets and the counterclaim to set aside the conveyance of personal property and for recovery of assets. This judgment previously was ...


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