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Succession of Hanna

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

June 26, 2019

SUCCESSION OF LEE MARK HANNA, JR.

          Appealed from the Second Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jackson, Louisiana Trial Court No. 7111 Honorable Jenifer Ward Clason, Judge.

          P. HEATH HARRAWAY JOSHUA L. CRITSELOU COUNSEL FOR APPELLANTS, ROSE DELANEY (KARI) AND MARK DELANEY

          LAW OFFICES OF CHRIS L. BOWMAN BY: CHRIS L. BOWMAN CHRISTY JOYNOR WALKER COLBY L. BOWMAN COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, SAVANNAH ANN NORMAN

          Before PITMAN, GARRETT, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          STEPHENS, J.

         Rose Delaney (Kari) and Mark Delaney appeal a judgment by the Second Judicial District Court, Parish of Jackson, State of Louisiana, granting the motion for summary judgment filed by Savannah Norman and nullifying the will of Lee Mark Hanna, Jr. For the following reasons, we reverse the trial court's judgment and remand the matter for further proceedings.

         FACTS

         Rose Delaney (Kari) and Mark Delaney are the stepchildren of the decedent, Lee Mark Hanna, Jr., who died in November 2012. Rose and Mark are the children of Hanna's ex-wife, Betty Maxine Hanna. Savannah Norman is the granddaughter of Lee Mark Hanna, Jr.-the child of Betty Hanna Norman, who was the daughter of Lee Mark Hanna, Jr., and predeceased him.

         Purportedly, Hanna had a testament dated September 19, 2012, naming Savannah his sole legatee. However, on October 18, 2012, Hanna signed another testament in the presence of two witnesses and a notary/attorney (the "Will") in which he made the following legacies: to Savannah, a right of use to personally live on a 63-acre tract of immovable property, subject to certain conditions; to Rose and Mark, all of the immovable property which Hanna possessed at death; and, finally, to the Savannah Ann Norman Testamentary Trust, the residuary estate, naming Savannah as the income and principal beneficiary of the trust. Additionally, Rose was named independent administratrix.

         On March 4, 2013, Savannah filed a petition to set aside will and for appointment of provisional administrator. In that petition, Savannah alleged Hanna lacked the capacity to execute the Will and, further, he was unduly influenced by his ex-wife, Betty, and her daughter, Rose. Based on that initial filing before the trial court, Savannah was appointed provisional administratrix in the succession.

         On May 29, 2014, Rose and Mark filed their petition to remove provisional administratrix, citing the Will wherein Rose was named independent executrix. Following various delays in discovery, trial was set for late February 2018.

         Then, on February 16, 2018, Savannah filed a first supplemental and amended petition to her initial filing, where she additionally claimed the Will should be nullified due to a defect in its attestation clause. The trial court granted her leave to supplement and amend her petition, upsetting the February trial date. On March 27, 2018, Savannah filed her motion for summary judgment, where she argued the attestation clause in the Will was flawed.

         Relying on the recent opinion by the Louisiana Supreme Court, Successions of Toney, 2016-1534 (La. 5/3/2017), 226 So.3d 397, the trial court found the Will's attestation clause was deficient. Specifically, it determined "[t]he attestation clause requirement that the notary and witnesses declare that the testator signed the will at its end and on each of its separate pages, is not stated in this will's attestation clause." Further, the trial court characterized the attestation clause as "materially" deviating from the ...


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