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In re Last Will and Testament of Burris

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 25, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF E. MILTON BURRIS SR., DECEASED: E. MILTON BURRIS JR. APPELLANT
v.
THE ESTATE OF E. MILTON BURRIS SR., DECEASED, BY AND THROUGH THE EXECUTRIX RENEE SIMS BURRIS, AND RENEE SIMS BURRIS, INDIVIDUALLY APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/07/2017

          AMITE COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. DEBBRA K. HALFORD TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: MARC E. BRAND

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: EDWIN L. BEAN JR.

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

          IRVING, P.J.

         ¶1. E. Milton Burris Jr. (Milt) appeals from the judgment of the Amite County Chancery Court granting summary judgment in favor of Renee Sims Burris on the issues of testamentary capacity and undue influence in the contest of the last will and testament of E. Milton Burris Sr. (Eddie) by his son, Milt. Milt argues that the chancery court erred in granting summary judgment because, in doing so, the chancellor adjudicated facts rather than allowing them to be determined by a jury.

         ¶2. We find that based on the averments of Renee's motion for summary judgment and Milt's response thereto, the chancellor did not err in granting summary judgment. Therefore, we affirm.

         FACTS

         ¶3. On February 20, 2012, Eddie executed his Last Will and Testament. Eddie left his entire estate to Renee, his wife and the executrix of his estate, with the exception of a one-dollar bequest that he left to his only child, Milt. Eddie subsequently passed away on February 6, 2015, after a battle with a terminal illness. After Eddie's death, Renee filed a petition to probate the will on February 25, 2015, and an amended petition two days later. The chancery court granted Renee's amended petition on February 27, 2015.

         ¶4. On November 16, 2016, Milt filed a complaint contesting the validity of the will. On November 18, 2016, Renee filed her answer, counterclaim, and motion for sanctions. On December 12, 2016, the case was set for trial in August 2017, with the discovery period ending in March 2017.

         ¶5. On August 12, 2016, Renee had moved for partial summary judgment. The motion for partial summary judgment was scheduled to be heard on May 4, 2017, but it was rescheduled because Milt was allowed to file an amended complaint. The parties agreed that the court would consider the allegations of the amended complaint whenever it ruled on the motion for partial summary judgment. On July 7, 2017, the court granted Renee's motion for summary judgment, finding that there was no genuine issue as to any material fact regarding Eddie's testamentary capacity, nor was there a genuine issue of material fact on the issue of undue influence on the part of Renee. Milt timely appealed.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶6. "As an appellate court, we will not disturb the findings of a chancellor when supported by substantial evidence unless the chancellor abused his discretion, was manifestly wrong, or an erroneous legal standard was applied." In re Estate of McDevitt, 755 So.2d 1125, 1127 (¶10) (Miss. Ct. App. 1999). "In reviewing assignments of errors of law, this Court proceeds de novo." Id. at (¶14). In its order, the chancery court cited Power v. Scott, 837 So.2d 202, 205 (ΒΆ7) ...


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