IN RE ESTATE OF RUBY C. ROGGLI, ET AL.
15, 2017 Session
from the Chancery Court for Franklin County No. 19998 Justin
C. Angel, Judge No. M2016-02562-COA-R3-CV
nephews by marriage filed a petition seeking to recognize and
establish a copy of a lost will as Decedent's last will
and testament. The trial court determined that the will was
still in existence at the time Decedent lost testamentary
capacity, and that Decedent did not have exclusive access and
control of her will. Appellants appeal the trial court's
order establishing the lost will. Discerning no error, we
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
Arnold B. Goldin and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ., joined.
M. Hood, Winchester, Tennessee, for the appellants, Lanelle
Clark Harrison, Janet Jullian, Charlotte Reynolds, and
McKelvey Edwards, Winchester, Tennessee, for the appellees,
Estate of Ruby C. Roggli, Larry Shockley, Carl Spray, Charles
Kent Clark, Jeff Clark, and Melissa Harrell.
February 27, 2007, Ruby C. Roggli ("Decedent")
executed a last will and testament. The will provided for all
personalty, excluding her jewelry and farm machinery, to pass
to her sister, Lanelle Harrison, and to her nephew, Charles
Kent Clark. The will further provided for her jewelry to pass
to her nieces, Janet Julian and Charlotte Reynolds. The
remainder of her estate, including her farm and farm
machinery, were devised to her nephews on her husband's
side, Larry Shockley and Carl Spray (together
"Appellees"). At the time of her death, Decedent
was a widow with no children. Her heirs were her two
surviving sisters, Lannelle Clark Harrison and Colleen
Sylvester; two nephews, Charles Clark Kent and Jeff Clark;
and three nieces, Melissa Harrell, Janet Julian, and
Charlotte Reynolds. The Appellants in this case are Ms.
Harrison, Ms. Sylvester, Ms. Julian, and Ms. Reynolds.
Roggli and her husband inherited the farm from Mr.
Roggli's parents. During his life, Mr. Roggli had a close
relationship with Appellees. Prior to Mr. Roggli's death,
Appellees assisted the Rogglis in working the farm and
maintaining the property. After Mr. Roggli died in 2007, Mr.
Shockley and his wife visited Mrs. Roggli every day until her
death in 2015. Mrs. Roggli did not want a caretaker in her
home and did not want to spend the night alone, so Appellees
alternated nights so that she was never home alone at night.
The Shockleys provided Mrs. Roggli lunch and dinner every
day, assisted her in paying her bills and maintaining her
property, and generally provided for all of her needs.
Roggli had a large safe in her dining room where she kept all
of her important papers including her will. The last time her
will was physically seen was in approximately 2012, when Mrs.
Roggli showed it to her sister, Ms. Harrison; after showing
it to Ms. Harrison, Mrs. Roggli put the will back in the
safe. At this time, Ms. Harrison noted that her sister's
behavior was different. Specifically, Ms. Harrison stated
that Decedent seemed like she just "wanted to die."
Mrs. Roggli's physical and mental health continued to
deteriorate after her sister's visit. In February 2015,
after a series of falls, Mrs. Roggli moved into a nursing
home. A petition to appoint a conservator was filed, and, in
May 2015, without objection, Ms. Betty Shockley was appointed
as Decedent's conservator. Mrs. Roggli died on July 15,
consistently and repeatedly expressed, to her friend and
longtime legal advisor, Judge Thomas Faris, her desire that
her real property pass to the Appellees and that her
personalty pass to the Appellants. During her mental decline,
and even after her death, several of Decedent's family
members had access to her home and the safe where the will
was kept. After an exhaustive search, the original will,
which Decedent signed in 2007, was not located after she
August 18, 2015, Appellees filed a petition to recognize and
establish the lost will. Appellants filed an answer, and the
matter proceeded to trial on October 3, 2016. Immediately
prior to the hearing, the parties stipulated that the only
issue was "whether said last will and testament dated
February 27, 2007, has been revoked." The trial court
determined that the will was still in existence at the time
Decedent lost testamentary capacity and that Decedent did not
have exclusive access and control of her will at the end of
her life. On November 16, 2016, the trial court entered a