IN RE ESTATE OF INA RUTH BROWN - Articles

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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Mar 22, 2013

Head Comment: With concurring opinion.

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Mark E. Brown and Maurice W. Gerard, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rockford Evan Estes.

Attorneys 2:

William L. Waters, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Roy E. Brown III, Joan Brown Moyers, and Donna Brown Ellis.

Judge(s): KOCH

This appeal involves the validity of a will executed in contravention of an earlier contract to make mutual wills. A husband and wife signed a contract to make mutual wills and then executed those wills. Soon after the husband’s death, the wife executed a new will that was inconsistent with her previous will. Following the wife’s death, her son of an earlier marriage sought to probate his mother’s last will in the Chancery Court for Knox County. In response, the children of the husband’s earlier marriage filed an action in the Chancery Court for Knox County asserting (1) that their stepmother’s last will had been procured by undue influence, (2) that this will was invalid because it breached the contract to prepare mutual wills, and (3) that the will prepared by their stepmother pursuant to the contract to make mutual wills should be admitted to probate. The wife’s son asserted that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate his stepfather’s children’s claims and that the contract to make mutual wills was void for lack of consideration. Following a hearing on the parties’ cross-motions for a summary judgment, the trial court determined (1) that the husband’s children had failed to prove that their stepmother’s will had been procured through undue influence, (2) that it had subject matter jurisdiction to hear the claims asserted by the husband’s children, (3) that the contract to make mutual wills was supported by adequate consideration, and, (4) that the wife’s last will, therefore, was null and void. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. In re Estate of Brown, No. E2011-00179-COA-R3-CV, 2011 WL 4552281 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 4, 2011). We affirm.