Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Bessie Arrendell died at the age of 94 on April 15, 2003. In late 2002, she executed a power of attorney giving her younger sister Helen Keeling authority to manage her affairs. With Keeling’s assistance Arrendell executed a new will on Jan. 3, 2003, at an attorney’s office, which materially altered the prior disposition of her estate. Her 1978 will, which according to the 6th Court of Appeals is neither in evidence nor, evidently, in existence, had divided all property in equal shares to her two children. Bobbie Hudson, one of Arrendell’s two children, died in 2002. The new will placed Arrendell’s house in a testamentary trust although her grandson Mike Hudson, Bobbie’s son, ultimately inherited the house. Under the will, the rest of Arrendell’s property except for two large certificates of deposit (CDs) went to Keeling. However, before Arrendell’s death, Keeling’s name also became attached to those CDs, the 6th Court stated. Keeling sought to probate the will, and Arrendell’s other child, Dorothy Ingram, filed this contest. A jury found that Arrendell lacked testamentary capacity when she signed the 2003 will, that Keeling unduly influenced Arrendell to make the will, that Arrendell lacked mental capacity when she signed the trust agreement and that Keeling violated her fiduciary duty to Arrendell when she made herself the beneficiary of Arrendell’s two CDs. The jury also found that Keeling did not show good faith and did not act with just cause in prosecuting the probate proceeding. The trial court granted a motion to disregard the jury’s finding of undue influence and then rendered judgment in favor of Ingram. HOLDING:Affirmed. The court noted that the record is incomplete and that the rules on partial records do not apply. The court presumed that the missing portion of the record supports the factual determinations made by the factfinder. Thus, the court held that all of Arrendell’s fact-based contentions of error fail. The court then examined Keeling’s contention that the trial court exceeded its authority by setting aside a deed, granting monetary damages against Keeling personally and placing a constructive trust on the funds in Keeling’s possession for which she had been the designated pay-on-death beneficiary. Keeling’s argument, the court stated, assumes first that those actions by the trial court were in the nature of ruling on causes of action and second that the court erred by granting a post-verdict trial amendment to allow those new causes of action to be raised. The court disagreed with that assumption. A constructive trust, the court stated, is not a cause of action, only a remedy for breach of fiduciary duty. In this case, the court found a breach of fiduciary duty involving Keeling’s improper taking of money from the estate. Thus, under these facts, the court held that the trial court’s finding of monetary damages and its creation of a constructive trust over the remaining funds was a reasonable method to attempt to effectuate the verdict. Similarly, the court stated, the order setting aside the deeds is not a new cause of action, it is a means of effectuating the judgment entered by the court. OPINION:Carter, J.; Morriss, C.J., and Ross and Carter, J.J.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.