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In re Succession of Catha

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

May 16, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF THE SUCCESSION OF EVELYN HELOISE ANDRUS CATHA

         Appealed from the 21st Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Tangipahoa State of Louisiana Case No. 2015-0030414, The Honorable Robert H. Morrison, III, Judge Presiding.

          Mark D. Plaisance Thibodaux, Louisiana Charles Reid, Amite, Louisiana, Counsel for Appellants John King and Minnie Catha King.

          Mary E. Heck Barrios Denham Springs, Louisiana, Counsel for Appellee Sheryl Andrus Carnegie.

          BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, THERIOT, AND CHUTZ, JJ.

          THERIOT, J.

         The appellants, John King and Minnie Catha King ("the Kings"), appeal the judgment of the Twenty-First Judicial District Court in favor of the appellee, Sheryl Andrus Carnegie, administratrix of the succession of Evelyn Heloise Andrus Catha. In addition, the appellee has filed a motion in this Court to convert the appeal from suspensive to devolutive. For the following reasons, we grant the appellee's motion and affirm the judgment of the district court.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The decedent, Evelyn Heloise Andrus Catha, executed a notarial last will and testament on November 29, 2014.[1] In that will, the Kings were designated as co-executors of the estate. The decedent died on November 21, 2015.

         On November 23, 2015, Ms. Carnegie filed a petition for appointment of administratrix and to appoint an attorney to search for any existing wills executed by the decedent. It was Ms. Carnegie's belief, according to the petition, that the decedent died intestate and requested that she be appointed administratrix over the estate.[2] The district court appointed her administratrix on this date.

         On December 8, 2015, Huey Oscar Lowery, III[3] filed a petition to be appointed co-administrator of the decedent's estate, claiming that the decedent did have a valid handwritten olographic will and died testate.[4] Ms. Carnegie opposed his petition. Ms. Carnegie believed that the purported handwritten olographic will was invalid in form as prescribed by La. C.C. art. 1575. Mr. Lowery moved to revoke Ms. Carnegie's status as administratrix, claiming that as a legatee of the decedent, he was more familiar with the decedent's wishes than Ms. Carnegie, who was not a legatee.

         On December 21, 2015, the Kings filed a petition to probate the decedent's notarial will, attaching the will to the petition, and requesting that they be appointed co-executors. The district court ordered that the Kings be appointed co-executors. Mr. Lowery subsequently filed his own petition to probate the decedent's handwritten olographic will, requested that he be appointed executor, and attached a copy of the purported olographic will to the petition.

         Ms. Carnegie petitioned the district court to annul both the notarial will and the olographic will.[5] As to the notarial will, she claimed that the decedent had revoked it. Ms. Carnegie alleges in her petition that she provided to the Kings' counsel proof of the decedent's revocation of the notarial will, which the Kings did not present to the district court prior to obtaining ex parte probate of the notarial will.

         As to the olographic will, Ms. Carnegie alleged that it failed to meet the legal requirements of a valid olographic will because it was not signed at the end by the decedent, nor was it entirely written in the decedent's handwriting, nor was it properly dated. Ms. Carnegie additionally claimed that the olographic will was procured through the fraud, duress, or other undue influence exerted upon the decedent by Mr. Lowery.

         Trial was held on January 19, 2016. The district court found the olographic will to be invalid as to form and granted a new trial on the probate of the notarial will. The district court found that the notarial will had been validly revoked by the decedent. Lastly, the district court ordered that the succession would proceed intestate and reinstated the previous order appointing Ms. Carnegie as ...


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