FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2017-10317,
DIVISION "G" Honorable Robin M. Giarrusso, Judge.
A. Fischer Betsy A. Fischer LLC COUNSEL FOR
D. Beyt Beyt & Beyt, PLC COUNSEL FOR
composed of Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Rosemary Ledet,
Judge Tiffany G. Chase.
Tiffany G. Chase Judge.
Marie P. Schelfhaudt, Renée M. Means, and Amy E.
Meunier (collectively the "Schelfhaudt Heirs"),
appeal the trial court's October 15, 2018 judgment
assigning sole liability of a home mortgage debt to the
decedent's estate.For the reasons that follow, the judgment
of the trial court is affirmed.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
facts of this case are not in dispute. Mary-Louise
Schelfhaudt (hereinafter "Ms. Schelfhaudt") died
intestate on June 9, 2017. Relevant to this appeal is the
primary asset of Ms. Schelfhaudt's succession, a house on
Royal Street in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans
(hereinafter "the House"). Ms. Schelfhaudt
purchased the House on July 30, 1999, and lived there
together with appellee, David Stephens (hereinafter "Mr.
Stephens"), whom she was in a relationship with for
thirty years before her death. An authentic act was executed
on October 23, 2001, whereby Ms. Schelfhaudt donated a
one-half interest in the House to Mr. Stephens subject to a
mortgage in favor of Countrywide Home Loans,
December 11, 2014, the home was refinanced by USAA Federal
Savings Bank (hereinafter "USAA"). Ms. Schelfhaudt
executed a note in favor of USAA promising to repay the sum
of $143, 000 over a period of thirty years at a rate of
3.750% interest per annum (hereinafter "the Note").
Mr. Stephens did not sign the Note. Contemporaneously, a
mortgage was executed with USAA encumbering the House
(hereinafter "the Mortgage"). Both Ms. Schelfhaudt
and Mr. Stephens are listed as "Borrowers" in the
Mortgage, and both signed the Mortgage. The Mortgage
enumerates a series of covenants wherein the Borrowers agree
to various provisions specified in individual
sections. Section 35 of the Mortgage, in relevant
Each Borrower covenants and agrees that Borrower's
obligations and liabilities under this Security Instrument
and under the Note shall be joint, several and solidary with
all other Borrowers and with each guarantor of the Note (if
the contention of the Schelfhaudt Heirs that this language
included in the Mortgage makes Mr. Stephens liable to pay the
obligation on the Note.
Ms. Schelfhaudt's death, Mr. Stephens filed a petition
appointing himself independent administrator of her
succession. The order appointing Mr. Stephens as
administrator was signed by the trial court on November 6,
2017. On December 1, 2017, the Schelfhaudt Heirs filed a
motion to remove Mr. Stephens as independent administrator,
as they did not consent to his initial appointment. The
Schelfhaudt Heirs also requested Mr. Stephens provide an
accounting of his activities as administrator. The matter was
scheduled for a contradictory hearing on March 9, 2018,
wherein the trial court granted the motion, removing Mr.
Stephens as administrator and further ordering him to provide
the requested accounting. As Mr. Stephens did not timely file
his accounting, the Schelfhaudt Heirs filed motions for
contempt and to compel discovery.
7, 2018, Mr. Stephens filed his final accounting and
requested it be homologated. The accounting listed, among
other assets, Ms. Schelfhaudt's undivided one-half
interest in the House. It also listed the full amount of the
remaining $131, 885.64 owed on the Note as a debt of the
decedent. The Schelfhaudt Heirs filed an opposition
contesting the allocation of this debt.
hearing on the collective issues before the trial court was
held on September 18, 2018. Ruling from the bench, and
pertinent to this appeal, the trial court held the Mortgage
did not obligate Mr. Stephens to pay the debt on the Note and
that Ms. Schelfhaudt's succession was solely liable for
the total amount owed. The judgment was reduced ...