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In re Conservatorship of Haynes

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

March 31, 2017


          Session March 22, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Rutherford County No. 15CV1186 Howard W. Wilson, Chancellor

         In connection with a conservatorship proceeding brought by appellant, the trial court found, inter alia, that Appellant lacked standing to challenge the transfer of his mother's home to his brother, the appellee. Appellant appealed. Because Appellant failed to properly raise the issue of his standing and failed to submit a proper request for attorney's fees in the proceedings below, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed

          Gary N. Patton, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Timothy Haynes.

          Mark L. Haynes, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Brandon O. Gibson and Kenny Armstrong, J., joined.




         On August 21, 2015, Petitioner/Appellant Timothy Haynes ("Appellant") filed this action in the nature of a conservatorship for his mother, Mary Annie Haynes. In addition to the prayer for a conservatorship, Appellant requested the following: (1) that Respondent/Appellee Mark Haynes ("Appellee"), Appellant's brother, be removed as Ms. Haynes's power of attorney; (2) that an injunction be entered preventing the transfer of certain real property to Appellee from Ms. Haynes, as well as preventing Appellee from spending any of Ms. Haynes's funds without court approval; and (3) that Appellee be ordered to provide a detailed accounting of all assets and expenditures since 2008 when he allegedly seized control of Ms. Haynes's property. Attached to the complaint was a quitclaim deed from Ms. Haynes to Appellee, in which she transferred her real property to him without consideration. In addition, Appellant filed an affidavit from a family member alleging that Appellee had committed domestic violence toward Ms. Haynes and that Ms. Haynes suffered from memory loss, confusion, and hallucinations.

         The trial court entered an order appointing a guardian ad litem for Ms. Haynes on August 24, 2015. Ms. Haynes and Appellee were both sent written notice of the proceeding. On September 3, 2015, the guardian ad litem filed its report, indicating that Ms. Haynes was not aware of the conservatorship proceeding prior to meeting with the guardian ad litem, [2] but opposed the appointment of a conservator on the grounds that she is not disabled and that her son, Appellee, has her power of attorney and cares for her. Ms. Haynes stated to the guardian ad litem, however, that she wished for her property to be divided equally between her sons at her death. The guardian ad litem recommended a full psychological assessment on Ms. Haynes, as well as the appointment of an attorney ad litem.

         On September 11, 2015, Appellee, by and through counsel, filed an answer and counter-petition. Therein, Appellee "admitted that [Ms.] Haynes may be in need of a [c]onservator" but asserted that he should be appointed as he serves as Ms. Haynes's durable power of attorney. Appellee otherwise denied that he had improperly seized control of Ms. Haynes's property and that there was a need for a detailed accounting. Appellee asserted, however, that "he is willing to share appropriate records and information regarding the affairs of [Ms.] Haynes since he began caring for his Mother and managing her affairs."

         After the guardian ad litem was ordered by the trial court to file a supplemental report to comply with applicable law, a supplemental report was filed on September 25, 2015. Therein, the guardian ad litem noted that Appellee had recently purchased a burial plot for Ms. Haynes. The report further noted that Ms. Haynes's physician recommended that Ms. Haynes be appointed a conservator to make medical, financial, and residential decisions. The guardian ad litem noted, however, that the conservator need not make financial decisions as Appellee still serves as Ms. Haynes's power of attorney and it is still her desire that he continue in that role. Finally, the guardian ad litem recommended that, rather than choosing a brother to serve as conservator, the trial court appoint a third-party conservator due to the "lack of trust between the parties." The supplemental report did not contain a recommendation that an attorney ad litem be appointed for Ms. Haynes.

         Appellant filed an answer to Appellee's counter-petition on September 28, 2015. Therein, Appellant alleged that Appellee had used his confidential relationship with Ms. Haynes "to trick, deceive, and otherwise fraudulently induce her to transfer and convey her only major asset, her home and land" to Appellee.

         On January 19, 2016, Appellee filed a motion to dismiss the petition to remove him as Ms. Haynes's power of attorney due to lack of standing. Therein, Appellee alleged that Appellant had suffered no injury so as to convey standing on Appellant because Appellee had "not even used the power of attorney in any improper or detrimental way since it was granted to him by [Ms. Haynes]." Moreover, Appellee asserted that only the personal representative of Ms. Haynes's estate after her death has the power to challenge the validity of a power of attorney, citing In re Estate of Glasscock, No. M2011-01725-00A-R3-CV, 2012 WL 5383074 (Tenn. Ct. App. June 11, 2012). The motion to dismiss also noted that Appellant's petition to remove him as power of attorney contained no allegations that Ms. Haynes was incompetent at the time that she named Appellee as her power of attorney.

         The trial court held a hearing on the petition and counter-petition on January 14 and 19, 2016. By order of February 12, 2016, the trial court ruled that Ms. Haynes was a person with a disability in need of a conservator and that it was in her best interest that Greater Nashville Regional Council, Public Guardianship Program for the Elderly to be appointed as conservator of both her person and her property. The trial court found that because of Appellee's "prior violations of the fiduciary duty owed to his mother, he is without the necessary ability to continue serving in that capacity." Specifically, the trial court noted Appellee's "long-standing pattern of violent and non-violent ...

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