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In re Conservatorship of Melton

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

July 31, 2015


Assigned on Briefs April 30, 2015

Appeal from the Chancery Court for Anderson County No. 10PB272 Hon. William E. Lantrip, Chancellor

Bruce Hill, Sevierville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Marilyn Moore, personal representative for the Estate of Scott Melton.

Robin M. McNabb and William A. Reeves, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, East Tennessee Human Resources Agency.

John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., C.J., and Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., joined.




In November 2010, Marilyn Moore ("Daughter") sought appointment as the conservator of her father, Scott Daniel Melton ("the Ward"). Daughter provided a physician's report, providing that the Ward suffered from dementia and that his ability to process information was impaired. The trial court appointed a guardian ad litem, Harold P. Cousins, Jr. ("Guardian"), who contacted the Ward's three children: David Melton, Timothy Melton, and Daughter. While David Melton did not object to the appointment of Daughter, Timothy Melton argued that the appointment of a conservator was unnecessary because the Ward's fiancé, Janella Ash ("Wife"), [1] provided daily care. Guardian also met with the Ward on two occasions. In the first meeting, the Ward, who was accompanied by Daughter, did not object to her appointment as his conservator. In the second meeting, the Ward, who was alone, objected to the appointment of Daughter as his conservator. Guardian filed a report in which he asserted that the appointment of a conservator was necessary but that he was unable to determine whether Daughter was the proper party to serve in that capacity.

The Ward filed an answer in which he objected to the Daughter's appointment and alternatively requested the appointment of Wife as his conservator. The Ward suspected that Daughter misappropriated his funds and only filed the conservatorship action because she feared the loss of her inheritance as a result of his intent to remarry. The Ward and Wife enjoyed a loving relationship for the past 10 years, and his children knew of his intention to remarry so long as his first wife predeceased him. Despite divorcing approximately 30 years ago, the Ward's faith prevented remarriage while his first wife was still living. His first wife died days prior to the filing of the petition for a conservator.

On February 2, 2011, the trial court appointed Carol Silvey ("Conservator") of East Tennessee Human Resources Agency, Tennessee Commission on Aging, as the Ward's financial conservator. The order provided, in pertinent part, as follows:

[Conservator] shall file an inventory and proposed property management plan and spending plan within 60 days of the entry of this Order. The Court finds that [Conservator's] blanket bond is sufficient surety and no further bond is required.
[Daughter] and Corey Moore shall be free to visit with [the Ward] without interference. [Wife], by signing this Order submits to the jurisdiction of the court and agrees not to remove [the Ward] from the state for more than 45 days every 6 months. If [the Ward] should become hospitalized while out of state [Daughter] shall have the right to visit with him in the hospital, and [Wife] agrees to arrange for his transport back to Tennessee if it is medically feasible.
The rights of the Ward removed from the Ward and vested in [Conservator] include the right to dispose of property, execute instruments, including a last will, make purchases, enter into contractual relationships, investigate, institute and prosecute litigation on the Ward's behalf; and the right to perform any other act relating to the Ward's estate deemed necessary by [Conservator] to be necessary or advisable.

Conservator filed an inventory report of assets, liabilities, and income on June 30, 2011. The report was later amended on December 5, 2011. Conservator noted that Timothy Melton owned and operated a business previously established by the Ward and provided the Ward with a weekly salary and health insurance from the business. Conservator also noted that the Ward provided Daughter with a 1% undivided interest in his property and verbally conveyed the rental income from his commercial property to her in return for her agreement to remit payment for operating expenses, including insurance and taxes. The Ward's assets, as amended, were as follows:

1. Indebtedness from Timothy Melton in the approximate amount of $72, 000.
2. 99% undivided interest in two parcels of real estate, and 100% undivided interest in one parcel of real estate. The combined value of the three properties was $576, 300 for property tax purposes. The properties were also subject to a mortgage debt at ORNL FCU of approximately $25, 000.
3. Certificate of Deposit at Enrichment Federal Credit Union, in account . . . titled to [Daughter], balance . . . of $40, 691.48.
4. Joint checking account with [Wife] at Peoples National Bank [] with balance . . . of $3, 519.73.
5. Account at Enrichment Federal Credit Union [balance of] $870.92 on May 31, 2011.
6. Account at Enrichment Federal Credit Union [balance of] $7, 418.22 ...

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