THE ESTATE OF JOAN B. ROOSA, DECEASED: CHRISTOPHER A. ROOSA, JOHN D. ROOSA, STUART ALLEN ROOSA, JR., ALL INDIVIDUALLY; KATHLEEN ROOSA AND DANIELLE ROOSA, BY AND THROUGH THEIR NEXT FRIEND AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, JOHN D. ROOSA; SOPHIA ROOSA, STUART ALLEN ROOSA, III AND BARRON ROOSA, BY AND THROUGH THEIR NEXT FRIEND AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, STUART ALLEN ROOSA, JR.; CHRISTOPHER A. ROOSA, AS EXECUTOR AND TRUSTEE OF THE JOAN B. ROOSA FAMILY TRUST; AND VELDA ANN POWELL APPELLANTS
ROSEMARY D. ROOSA APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 11/17/2017
HARRISON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON.
CARTER O. BISE TRIAL JUDGE
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: JOHN G. McDONNELL COURTNEY
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: PAUL M. NEWTON JR.
J. WILSON, P.J., GREENLEE AND McCARTY, JJ.
This case chiefly concerns whether submitting a codicil for
probate triggers a forfeiture provision in a decedent's
will. If the clause is triggered, the question becomes
whether good faith prevents application of the forfeiture.
Finding no error in the chancery court's refusal to
forfeit a daughter from inheriting under her mother's
will, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
This appeal involves litigation that has been ongoing since
Joan Roosa died in October 2007. Joan had an ample estate
partly from businesses operated by her and her husband,
Colonel Stuart Roosa, who had flown the command module
Kitty Hawk to the moon on the Apollo 14 mission.
Joan executed a will in 2002 and a codicil to it in 2004; a
second codicil was executed in 2007. At the time of her
death, Joan had four children-Christopher, Rosemary, Stuart,
and John-and a number of grandchildren. Under the terms of
the will and the first codicil, all of the children and
grandchildren were to receive some proceeds under the will.
In contrast, under the second codicil, the bulk of the estate
was left to the benefit of Rosemary alone.
Christopher, the executor of Joan's estate, submitted
Joan's will and the first codicil for probate in the
Harrison County Chancery Court, First Judicial District.
Shortly after, Rosemary submitted the will, the first
codicil, and the second codicil for probate. Christopher and
Joan's other children, including Joan's
grandchildren, contested the validity of the second codicil,
claiming among other things that Rosemary had undue influence
A jury was empaneled to determine the validity of the second
codicil. After trial, the jury returned a general verdict for
Christopher and the other contestants, rejecting the second
codicil. The chancery court subsequently entered an order
stating the second codicil was refused for probate.
Joan's will had a forfeiture provision which would
deprive any beneficiary from taking under the will if they
contested the will. Christopher sought to have this
forfeiture provision enforced against Rosemary since she
filed the second codicil for probate, claiming that she
interfered with Joan's wishes. Initially, the chancery
court found that Rosemary's actions in probating the
second codicil were in good faith, which meant that the
forfeiture provision did not prevent her from inheriting her
share of Joan's estate. The chancery court reiterated
this factual and legal finding in several orders during the
years of contention between the parties. After intervening
law from the Mississippi Supreme Court, the chancery court
held that the forfeiture provision was unenforceable because
it lacked a good faith and probable cause exception. After
extended motion practice from Christopher, the chancery court
deleted the language from prior orders finding that Rosemary
had acted in good faith.
Christopher now appeals, asserting the chancery court erred
in: (1) finding that the forfeiture provision was not
enforceable against Rosemary; (2) refusing to give the jury
interrogatories; (3) allowing Rosemary to use Joan's car
while waiting to settle Joan's estate; and (4) allowing
Rosemary's former attorneys to intervene.
"When reviewing a chancellor's legal findings,
particularly involving the interpretation or construction of
a will, this Court will apply a de novo standard of
review." In re Last Will & Testament of
Carney, 758 So.2d 1017, 1019 (¶8) (Miss. 2000).
With respect to other issues in a will contest,
"[t]ypically this Court will not disturb a
chancellor's findings of fact unless the chancellor was
manifestly wrong and not supported by ...