OF JUDGMENT: 03/15/2017
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, HON. PERCY L. LYNCHARD JR., TRIAL
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: DAVID MARK SLOCUM JR.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: TAYLOR D. BUNTIN III JOHN THOMAS
LAMAR JR. TAYLOR ALLISON HECK DISABLED VETERANS OF AMERICA
LEE, C.J., CARLTON AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.
In this will-contest case, we must decide whether the
chancery court properly granted summary judgment in favor of
the beneficiaries. Finding no error, we affirm.
On June 10, 2014, Mary Lou Froemel, a resident of DeSoto
County, Mississippi, executed her last will and testament.
She was seventy-five-years old, widowed, and had one adult
son, Victor "Daren" Froemel, who lived in Illinois.
According to affidavit testimony from John T. Lamar Jr., the
attorney who drafted the will, Mary Lou did not get along
with Daren, and they had numerous disagreements during the
time leading up to the execution of her will. Lamar's
affidavit stated that Mary Lou had told him that Daren
attempted to "have her committed on a couple of
occasions" and that "she was extremely mad at her
son to the point that she came in and met with me and made
When she executed the will, Mary Lou initialed each page and
signed it. The will contained an attestation clause with the
signatures of two witnesses: Lamar and his secretary, Judy W.
Payne. Lamar and Payne also executed an affidavit which
stated that Mary Lou had signed the will in their presence,
and that they had signed the will in the presence of each
other and Mary Lou. The attestation clause and affidavit also
stated that Mary Lou declared the will to be her last will
and testament, and the affidavit stated that Mary Lou was
"then of sound, disposing mind and memory."
On December 29, 2015, Mary Lou died, and her will was
admitted to probate in the DeSoto County Chancery Court on
January 5, 2016. In her will, Mary Lou left $20, 000 to her
friend Karen Cole; $20, 000 to the Disabled Veterans of
America; and the residue of her estate in trust for the
benefit of Charlie McNeal, for the remainder of his natural
life. McNeal had performed some house-repair and yard work
for Mary Lou and drove her on a few occasions when she had
broken her ankle. Upon McNeal's death, any remaining
assets in trust were to go to Mary Lou's grandson,
Maxwell Lee Froemel-Daren's son.
On February 19, 2016, Daren filed a will contest, alleging
that Mary Lou lacked testamentary capacity at the time she
executed the will. On September 13, 2016, Daren's counsel
propounded discovery to counsel for Mary Lou's estate and
received answers on January 11, 2017. Then, on January 24,
2017, Cole and McNeal (the beneficiaries) filed a motion for
summary judgment, which was joined by the Estate through its
executor, Danny Williams, arguing that Mary Lou possessed
testamentary capacity at the time she executed the will at
issue, that there was no genuine issue of material fact, and
that summary judgment should be granted. Attached to the
beneficiaries' motion for summary judgment were
affidavits from four individuals: Cole, McNeal, Lamar, and
Payne, testifying as to Mary Lou's strong mental capacity
at the time she executed the will.
Daren responded to the motion, stating that discovery
revealed Mary Lou had been hospitalized from May 21, 2014
through May 25, 2014 for altered mental status, and on June
10, 2014-the day she executed her will-she held prescriptions
for twenty-two medications, including morphine. Daren argues
that because of the recent hospitalization for altered mental
status and the possession of multiple prescriptions, there
was a genuine issue of fact regarding whether Mary Lou
possessed testamentary capacity. Apart from this response,
Daren did not submit any affidavits or other evidence in
support of his opposition to summary judgment.
Following a hearing on the motion, the chancellor granted the
beneficiaries' motion for ...