Case Study Estate Law

CASE STUDY:
ESTATE LAW

Estate Law Case Study:
Estate of M S T Smith
– Attorney Michael C. Daniel

CASE STUDY

Estate of M S T Smith 1

Civil Action No. CV-331

IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF GREENE COUNTY, STATE OF GEORGIA

SUMMARY OF FACTS

  • Mr. Daniel’s represented the grandson of Mary Sue Smith (“Mary Sue”) and the Estate of Mary Sue. Defendant JA Smith and Defendant KS Smith were Mary Sue’s children. Both Defendants were beneficiaries under the Last Will and Testament of Mary Sue, who died on February 19, 2006 while a legal resident of the City of Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia.
  • Mary Sue’s Last Will and Testament (“Will”) was admitted to probate in the Greene County Probate Court.
  • Until December of 2005, Mary Sue had an ownership interest in three (3) parcels of real property in Greene County, Georgia.
  • In December of 2005, JA and KS traveled to Greene County, Georgia and met with Mary Sue for the purpose of exercising undue influence, dominion, and control over her. At this time, JA and KS took complete and total control of the financial affairs of Mary Sue.
  • On or about December 6, 2005, Mary Sue allegedly executed a Financial Power of Attorney in favor of JA and KS.
    On or about December 15, 2005, while in a confidential relationship with Mary Sue, JA conveyed Parcel 1 to himself by virtue of the power of attorney purportedly signed by Mary Sue on December 6, 2005 for little or no consideration, and for the purpose of avoiding the plain language of the Will.
  • The conveyance was inconsistent with the wishes of Mary Sue as Mary Sue devised Parcel 1 to Jeb not JA, in Item 4 of her Will.
  • On or about December 15, 2005, while in a confidential relationship with Mary Sue, JA conveyed by deed Mary Sue’s undivided interest in Parcel 3 to KS for little or no consideration, and for the purpose of avoiding the plain language of the Will.
  • The conveyance of Mary Sue’s undivided interest in Parcel 3 was inconsistent with the wishes of Mary Sue, as Item 3 of the Will devised Parcel 3 to Joel not Defendants.
  • During the month of December 2005, while in a confidential relationship with Mary Sue, JA and KS transferred and/or caused the transfer of a substantial amount of stock and money to themselves by virtue of the power of attorney purportedly signed by Mary Sue. Upon information and belief, JA distributed Mary Sue’s stock and money to various members of Mary Sue’s family in circumvention of the plain language of the Will.
  • On December 23, 2005, Defendants filed a Petition in Duval County, Florida in an attempt to have Mary Sue declared incapacitated.
  • On December 23, 2005, the Duval County court issued an ex parte, emergency order declaring Mary Sue to be incapacitated and appointing JA as temporary guardian and conservator of Mary Sue’s person and property.
  • A final hearing was scheduled for February 27, 2006 to determine whether it was in Mary Sue’s best interests for JA to continue as the guardian and conservator of Mary Sue’s property.
  • However, on February 19, 2006, eight (8) days prior to the hearing, Mary Sue died in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Assuming that Mary Sue was competent to designate Defendants as her attorney in fact, through the power of attorney Defendants owed Mary Sue a fiduciary duty of loyalty and a responsibility to comply with the legal prohibition against self-dealing. Without the express consent of Mary Sue, JA and KS breached their duty of loyalty to Mary Sue, by conveying Parcel 1 and Parcel 3 to themselves. On his client’s behalf, Mr. Daniel alleged that, as a consequence of these facts, any and all transfers that were contrary to the wishes of Mary Sue as stated in her will and made pursuant to the power of attorney including any transfers of stocks and money, should be set aside and declared to be part of Mary Sue’s estate.

    Resolution

         This case involved an allegation of undue influence by the son of Mary Sue to avoid the application of her will. The will bypassed her children and granted the majority of her estate to her grandchildren. Through Power of Attorney, the son conveyed to himself a 604-acre farm, and office building, as well as more than $100,000.00 dollars in stock. The children contended that Mary Sue “changed her mind” about the conveyance and wished for her children to have her assets.   Mr. Daniel filed a Petition to Cancel the Deeds and Set Aside Conveyances and was able to resolve the Estate with the children receiving approximately 8% of the Estate, and the remaining portion going to the grandchildren, Mr. Daniel’s clients.

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