IN RE: ESTATE OF DANNY KEITH ELLIS

This case involves a dispute between the administrators of the estate of a man who died intestate and the decedent’s’s former wife over the legal ownership of funds that were held in jointly titled accounts at two banking institutions. After the man’s death, his former wife withdrew almost all the funds from the accounts. The administrators asked for a declaratory judgment that the funds belonged to the estate on the basis that the husband and wife had entered into a Marital Dissolution Agreement (MDA) before their divorce which designated those funds as belonging solely to the husband. However, the husband never changed the titles on those accounts, and the ex-wife insisted that the unaltered designation of joint ownership conclusively established her right to the funds after her ex-husband’s death. After a hearing, the trial court ruled that the bank accounts were the sole property of the estate, and the former wife was obligated to return the funds. The trial court reasoned that because the MDA was approved by the court and was binding on the parties, it amounted to an amendment to the contract that the parties had created when the accounts were established. We affirm.

Attorney 1: 

Mark J. Downton, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Janet Kenyon.

Attorney 2: 

Blaine Holt Smith, Ashley Nation Bassel, Nashville, Tennessee; Robert S. Burns, Sewanee, Tennessee, for the appellees, Barry L. Ellis and Shelia Pugh.

Judge: 
COTTRELL
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