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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Jan 31, 2017

Head Comment: CORRECTION: Page one of the filed opinion refers to "July 1, 2006" when it should be "July 1, 2016".

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

J. Murray Milliken, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellant, James Mark Parker.

Attorneys 2:

Richard L. Dugger, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Timothy Parker and Dolly P. Robbins.

Judge(s): CLEMENT

This appeal arises from a will contest. The witnesses to the will failed to sign the body of the will, but they signed the self-proving affidavit in the presence of the testator. After the will was admitted to probate in common form, the contestants filed a complaint challenging the validity of the will. The contestants later filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the decedent did not comply with the execution requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 32-1-104, because the witnesses did not sign the body of the will. The trial court granted the motion based on In re Estate of Bill Morris, No. M2014-00874-COA-R3-CV, 2015 WL 557970 (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 9, 2015), holding that a will is not validly executed if the witnesses sign only the self-proving affidavit. The executor appealed. While this appeal was pending, the General Assembly passed an amendment to Tenn. Code Ann. § 32-1-104, which states that wills executed prior to July 1, 2016, satisfy Tennessee’s due execution requirements if the witnesses to the will signed the self-proving affidavit. In this appeal, both parties ask this Court to determine whether the newly enacted amendment applies and, if so, whether it comports with Tennessee’s constitutional prohibition against retrospective laws. But for a few exceptions, we will not consider issues the parties did not present to the trial court. Because the General Assembly enacted this amendment while this appeal was pending, the trial court has not had the opportunity to consider these issues. In order to afford the trial court that opportunity, we vacate the judgment declaring the will invalid. Further, we remand to the trial court with instructions to reinstate the petition to admit the will to probate and to reinstate the amended complaint challenging the will, which will give the parties the opportunity to present these issues to the trial court.