APPEAL FROM THE CHANCERY PROBATE COURT OF SUMNER COUNTY AT HENDERSONVILLE, TENNESSEE HONORABLE THOMAS E. GRAY, CHANCELLOR
Sumner Probate No. 93P-30
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry F. Todd, Presiding Judge, Middle Section
MODIFIED IN PART, AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, REMANDED.
CONCURS IN SEPARATE OPINION: WILLIAM C. KOCH, JR., JUDGE
This is yet another chapter in the administration of the estate of Harold L. Jenkins, a popular entertainer whose stage name was "Conway Twitty." The executors initiated the present proceeding to resolve disputed rights of three devises in respect to the collection from them of certain charges appearing on the records of the deceased. The Probate Court resolved the issues in favor of the executors, and two of the devises appealed.
The complaint of the executors alleged in pertinent substance:
During the lifetime of the late Harold L. Jenkins, he paid certain salaries to his adult children, Michael Jenkins, Kathy Jenkins, Joni Jenkins, and Jimmy Jenkins, and in addition, from time to time after they reached their majority, he made various payments on debts owed by them, or directly to them, to allow them to purchase certain items or pay certain expenses.
Harold L. Jenkins requested his employees who kept his books and records to keep an account of all of these payments made by him to or for his adult children. Occasionally one of the children would make a payment, reducing the balance owed on that child's account, and occasionally charges would be made against the accounts for rent owed by them on their homes at Twitty City, when such rent was not deducted from the salaries he paid to them. Each of these accounts of his adult children was listed as an "loan receivable" account on Mr. Jenkins' personal books and records, which were kept as part of the records of his business proprietorship known as Twitty Enterprises.
The Internal Revenue Service requires that interest be imputed and income tax paid on the interest, by a parent, if the child owes the parent a debt of more than $10,000.00. Interest upon such debts of his children was reported and income tax was paid thereon by deceased.
Although the late Harold Jenkins never proposed that any legal action be taken against his adult children to collect these accounts, on more than one occasion he told Laurie Thompson Tucker, his accountant, that if there was any unpaid balance on these accounts at this death, the amount would be taken out of that child's inheritance.
At the time of Mr. Jenkins' death Kathy Jenkins owed her father $59,620.00, according to her "loans receivable account" maintained by her father's bookkeepers and accountants. The "loans receivable" account of Joni Jenkins showed a debt of $4,311.00 owed by her to her father.
The appellants answered denying any indebtedness to the estate asserting that the benefits received from deceased were gifts, and pleading the statute of limitations.
The Probate Judge heard the evidence without a jury and filed a memorandum stating:
The late Mr. Jenkins was a generous and kind person to his children and to his employees. He allowed charges for personal expenses to be made to his business by his children and other employees and the children's spouses; his business paid the expenses and charged the child or other employees or child's spouse on an account maintained to keep a record of such transactions.
Similarly, during part of this time Kathy Jenkins was married to and lived at Twitty City with Bruce Harris and Gary Seybold, and the entries on her account reflect that during those marriages Mr. Seybold and Mr. Harris received some payments which were charged to the account of Kathy Jenkins, and they made some payments to reduce the unpaid balance shown on her account.
The testimony of Kathy and Joni Jenkins regarding the accounts is not credible. They knew that they made charges and that a record was being kept and that they were expected to make repayment. They knew when their father was not expecting repayment. Joni knew that no repayment was expected for some hospital expenses incurred by her and paid by her father. Kathy knew that her father did not expect repayment for some clothes purchased by her when she was working on a career in the music industry.
The credibility of Mickey Jenkins, former spouse of the deceased and the mother of Joni, Kathy and Jimmy Jenkins was impeached as to her testimony concerning the furnishings of the condominiums and that she did not know that her children, Kathy, Joni or Jimmy, were indebted to the late Harold L. Jenkins.
Twitty City was constructed in the early 1980's in Sumner County, Tennessee. As a part of the complex there were condominiums owned by Harold L. Jenkins d/b/a Conway Twitty Enterprises. After construction of Twitty City, each of Harold L. Jenkins' children, Michael, Joni, Kathy and Jimmy, rented a condominium from their father and each was an employee of Conway Twitty Enterprises. Each child paid rent on his/her condominium; each child was due and received a salary and from time to time, generally at Christmas, each received a bonus.
Charges to Conway Twitty Enterprises for personal expenses were at times made by Michael, Joni, Kathy or Jimmy. Other employees at times made a charge to Conway ...