fbpx

Tennessee Will Contest

J Don BrockA 110-year legal decision known as ‘the Cowan rule’” has effectively stopped five of J. Don Brock’s children from winning their will contest.

After their father’s death in March 2015, five Brock siblings claimed that their father's second wife and former secretary, Sammye, teamed up with her two children from a previous marriage (who Brock had officially adopted as well) to exclude them from a 2013 will.

At the center of this will contest is a very old law that seemingly has plagued many modern day Tennessee judges because of it does not allow for any extenuating circumstances to be considered. The Cowan Rule is a 1906 Tennessee Supreme Court decision which holds that a descendant who was left nothing in an earlier, un-probated will has no standing to contest a later will. In other words, you can't contest the final will if you weren't left anything in a previous will. That was the verdict in February, 2016 when the trial court judge reluctantly dismissed the five siblings' claim for that reason: they didn’t have standing to contest the 2013 will because they weren't included in a 2012 draft.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently upheld the lower probate court’s decision although they too seemed somewhat to be somewhat frustrated by the Cowan rule's rigidity that would not allow any other evidence to be considered.  For example, as the children’s attorney pointed out in their argument before the court, J. Don Brock had created numerous wills over the years and those wills cut out all of his children at different times. 

"Tennessee law does not appear to provide a mechanism by which a contestant can challenge multiple prior wills when the contestant is excluded from those wills," Judge Brandon Gibson wrote for the court. "The Tennessee Supreme Court is free to re-visit its rulings in Cowan (1906) and Jennings (1966), and we encourage an examination of their practical application."

Richard Bethea, the attorney representing Brock's estate, said: "This isn't some draconian measure to protect rich people from doing things they shouldn't do. The whole purpose of the rule is to prevent someone from filing the will contest and basically trying to shake down the estate, to get money out of an estate, and delay the disposition of the estate through litigation." 

Reference: (Chattanooga) Times Free Press (November 12, 2016) “Attorneys: Tennessee Supreme Court nudged to reconsider 110-year-old case”

 

Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment

LIKE THIS POST?

We have a LOT more where that came from!

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

Call Now ButtonCall Us Now https://jsfiddle.net/7h5246b8/

Request a free consultation

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
  • We launched the rollout of our on-demand webinar early so that new clients and our allied professionals can view the important component parts of ‘an estate plan that works’ at their convenience.  That is available on our website.
  • Live video workshops will be produced as quickly as possible and certainly ahead of our previous schedule; we will keep you posted as these events become available. Given the ‘boutique’ nature of the firm, we rarely have more than ten people in our office including team members at any one time. During this period of ‘social distancing,’ we promise to have no more than 8 people at any time.   This allows us to comply with the Governor’s directive to limit in-person gatherings.
  • The best way to communicate with us is still by phone during regular office hours of 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, or, you can email any of our team members (that is, their first name followed by @zarembalaw.com).  We will respond to these emails as quickly as possible.
  • Please continue to follow the directives of our local, state, and federal agencies. For your health and in consideration of our team who is assisting you, if you’ve scheduled an office appointment or planned to drop off paperwork and are experiencing a fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath, please contact your primary care doctor for guidance and then our office to reschedule.

Thank you, Walt and the Zaremba Team

Coronavirus/Covid-19
Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.