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Froemel v. Estate of Froemel

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 8, 2018

VICTOR DAREN FROEMEL APPELLANT
v.
ESTATE OF MARY LOU FROEMEL, DECEASED, DANNY WILLIAMS, EXECUTOR, KAREN COLE, DISABLED VETERANS OF AMERICA, AND CHARLIE MCNEAL APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/15/2017

          DESOTO COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, HON. PERCY L. LYNCHARD JR., TRIAL JUDGE.

          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 (PRO SE).

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., CARLTON AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          LEE, C.J.

         ¶1. 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.

         FACTS

         ¶2. 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 the will."

         ¶3. 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."

         ¶4. 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.

         ¶5. 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.

         ¶6. 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.

         ¶7. Following a hearing on the motion, the chancellor granted the beneficiaries' motion for ...


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