IN RE: SUCCESSION OF ADDIE VAUGHN BAILEY and JAMES CURTIS BAILEY
Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the
Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 2001-0722.
Honorable B. Scott Leehy, Judge
OFFICE OF ANTHONY J. BRUSCATO, APLC By: Anthony J. Bruscato
Counsel for First Appellant, Ollie Mae Bailey
PLEASANT, WILLIAMS & BANKS-MILEY LAW GROUP, LLC By:
Kristen B. Pleasant Counsel for Second Appellant, James Henry
Bailey and Julia Bailey Godfrey
ROLAND CHARLES Appellee In Proper Person
MOORE, COX, and STEPHENS, JJ.
appeal arises out of the Fourth Judicial District Court,
Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. Ollie Mae Bailey
("Ollie") appeals the district court's judgment
in favor of her siblings, James Henry Bailey
("James") and Julia Bailey Godfrey
("Julia"), concluding that their mother's
judgment of possession ("JOP") is null and void
based on deficiencies in the probating of the testament.
Although the district court's ruling was in James's
and Julia's favor, they have also appealed, arguing that
this Court remand the case for further proceedings. For the
foregoing reasons, we respectfully reverse the district
court's judgment nullifying Mrs. Bailey's JOP and
remand the case for further proceedings.
Curtis Bailey and Addie Vaughn Bailey ("Mr. and Mrs.
Bailey," respectively) owned a house in community in
Monroe, Louisiana. They had four children: James, Julia,
Jesse Bailey, and Ollie. Their son, Jesse Bailey, predeceased
them and had no children. Mr. Bailey died without a will on
July 30, 1992. His one-half interest in his community
property, including the house, passed equally to his three
remaining children, subject to the usufruct of Mrs. Bailey.
Mrs. Bailey died on June 8, 1999. In addition to her
community property, Mrs. Bailey left behind a money judgment
that had been settled, but not yet paid to her.
time of their parents' deaths and at the time of this
suit, James lived in Houston, Texas; Julia lived in Oakland,
California; and, Ollie lived in Monroe. Mr. and Mrs.
Bailey's successions were filed together and they share a
JOP, but Mr. Bailey's estate is not in dispute; only Mrs.
Bailey's estate is the subject of this appeal. For
simplicity, the remainder of this opinion will only refer to
the JOP as Mrs. Bailey's JOP, as that is the only portion
a check could be issued on Mrs. Bailey's money judgment,
her succession needed to be completed. Anthony Bruscato, Mrs.
Bailey's settlement attorney, began the succession
proceedings. Included in the record is the unfiled will of
Mrs. Bailey and an unfiled request to have it probated. Mr.
Bruscato testified, and his records confirmed, that he
retrieved the will from the judge's office before it was
signed because he received a letter stating James and Julia
planned to contest the will.
Charles testified that he was hired in person by Julia and
James to open their mother's succession. He stated that
he was previously contacted by Julia via telephone to check
for the existence of a will for her mother. Mr. Charles
stated that he sent a letter to Ollie notifying her that he
was hired by her siblings. He testified that he was then
contacted by Mr. Bruscato to notify him that he had already
begun the succession for Mrs. Bailey, and Mr. Bruscato sent
him copies of the will and filings. Mr. Charles stated that
because Mr. Bruscato had already begun working on the
succession, he did not work on it. Mr. Charles stated that
once the succession proceedings began, James and Julia came
in to his office a second time to sign the verification
documents. He testified that he did not check their ID's
when notarizing their signatures and could not state whether
or not the two people in the courtroom were the same people
who came to his office. He noted that this all transpired 17
years ago so he could not be certain. Mr. Charles also
testified that he did not recall having a Houston, Texas,
address on file for James.
Bailey's JOP, which was filed on February 14, 2001,
stated, "Considering the testament of the deceased,
which has been probated… recognizing
Ollie Mae Bailey Walker as the sole heir of the succession of
Addie Vaughn Bailey." (Emphasis added.) Sixteen years
later, on January 31, 2017, James and Julia filed a petition
to annul Mrs. Bailey's JOP based on fraud and/or ill
practices. The record reveals that the petition for
possession was filed jointly by Ollie, James, and Julia, but
now James and Julia dispute their signatures.
testified that in 2016, some extended family mentioned that
his great-niece would inherit the house. James said he
questioned how she would inherit because he thought he and
his two sisters owned the house together. He stated that he
decided to hire a title abstractor, Carolyn Williams, to
research the property ownership. Ms. Williams researched the
Ouachita Parish property records and sent James a copy of all
the relevant title and probate documents. James testified
that when he reviewed the records, he noticed the ...