January 14, 2015 Session
Appeal from the Chancery Court for Monroe County No. 17764 Hon. Jerri Bryant, Chancellor
Clifford E. Wilson, Madisonville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Beverly Hull, personal representative for the Estate of Marcia Hull.
J. Lewis Kinnard, Madisonville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Thomas Keith Phillips, personal representative for the Estate of George Culver.
Doris M. Matthews, Madisonville, Tennessee, for the appellee, People's Bank of East Tennessee.
John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., C.J., and D. Michael Swiney, J., joined.
JOHN W. McCLARTY, JUDGE
On September 21, 2011, George Culver ("Husband") and Marcia Hull ("Wife") were gravely injured in a fire at their residence. The couple had no children. Wife's extended family ceased lifesaving efforts on September 25, 2011. At that time, Husband showed some signs of recovery; however, Husband's extended family eventually terminated life support on September 27, 2011.
At the time of her death, Wife possessed two payable-on-death bank accounts, totaling $70, 788.78, with People's Bank of East Tennessee ("People's Bank"). Pursuant to Wife's contracts with People's Bank, the accounts passed to Husband upon her death. The couple owned two pieces of real property that also automatically passed to Husband upon Wife's death. Likewise, the fire insurance proceeds for the property in the amount of $59, 452.39 automatically passed to Husband upon Wife's death.
Citing Tennessee Code Annotated section 31-3-120(a), Beverly Hull ("Plaintiff"), as personal representative for Wife's estate, filed suit against the Culver Estate and People's Bank. Section 31-3-120(a) provides as follows:
An individual who fails to survive the decedent by one hundred twenty (120) hours is deemed to have predeceased the decedent for purposes of the homestead allowance, year's support allowance, exempt property, elective share and intestate succession, and the decedent's heirs are determined accordingly.
Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment providing that the Hull Estate was entitled to Wife's monetary assets and one-half of the jointly-held property and the fire insurance proceeds because Husband had not survived Wife by 120 hours. Plaintiff alleged that the couple died as a result of a common disaster and that Husband's relatives allowed Husband to live longer in order to stake claim to the property at issue.
Thomas Keith Phillips ("Defendant"), as personal representative for the Culver estate, responded by denying wrongdoing and filing a motion for summary judgment, claiming that Tennessee Code Annotated section 31-3-120(a) was inapplicable. Defendant alleged that title to the real estate covered by the insurance policy properly passed to Husband upon Wife's death. Defendant also asserted that People's Bank properly remitted the funds in accordance with Wife's contracts and in compliance with the law. Likewise, People's Bank denied wrongdoing and filed ...