In the matter of the Estate of Alice Earle F. Harper

The decedent died in Monroe County in Spring, 2013. She had three adult children who survived her: Alice Harper-Taylor, William C. Harper, and James R. Harper. The decedent’s husband died in 2002. Alice filed in Monroe County a petition to probate a 1995 will allegedly executed by the decedent. In her petition, Alice acknowledged that there was in existence a 2007 will that purported to be the will of the decedent, but she challenged the validity of the 2007 will on several grounds, including lack of mental capacity and the existence of a reciprocal will by the decedent’s husband that had been admitted to probate in 2002. The Monroe County probate judge recused himself from hearing the petition, and the Supreme Court appointed a special probate judge to hear the proceedings in Monroe County. Meanwhile, in early 2014, William filed a petition in Escambia County to probate a 2007 will allegedly executed by the decedent. Alice filed a motion to dismiss and/or to stay the proceeding in Escambia County until the proper venue for the probate proceeding was determined. The Escambia Probate Court admitted the 2007 will to probate and issued letters testamentary to William, as the personal representative named in the 2007 will. Alice appealed the Escambia Court’s decision, while William filed a motion to dismiss Alice’s petition to probate the 1995 will in Monroe County. The Monroe Probate Court granted William’s motion to dismiss on the ground that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. Alice appealed the Monroe Probate Court’s grant of the motion to dismiss her petition to probate the 1995 will (case no. 1130884). In case no. 1130587, Alice appealed the Escambia Probate Court’s admission to probate the 2007 will, and in case no. 1130884, she appealed the Monroe Probate Court’s order granting the motion to dismiss her petition to probate the 1995 will. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that venue in this case was proper in the Monroe Probate Court, therefore, the Court reversed the Escambia Court’s judgment admitting the 2007 will. Furthermore, the Court concluded the Monroe Court erred in dismissing Alice’s petition. The case was remanded to Monroe County for further proceedings.
Proper will execution should have taken into account all aspects of capacity, etc.  This is why hiring a competent attorney is necessary.  Alice Harper-Taylor could have saved a lot of time, headache, and money for the Estate, if the will had properly been executed.  If so, the 1995 will would have been destroyed…never to be seen again and no longer in existence, provided the capacity issues were met in 2007.  Otherwise, the 2007 will would not be valid, as the Court correctly concluded and the 1995 will would take precedence.

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