Session August 16, 2017
from the Chancery Court for Franklin County No. 19721 Jeffrey
F. Stewart, Judge
an appeal from the trial court's denial of
Appellants' motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil
Procedure 60.02. In In re Estate of Morris, No.
M2014-00874-COA-R3-CV, 2015 WL 557970, (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb.
9, 2015), perm. app. denied (Tenn. June 15, 2015)
(Morris I), this Court held that Decedent's will
was invalid for failing to comply with the statutory
formalities for executing a will. Following the Supreme
Court's denial of certiorari, the parties entered into an
agreed order declaring the will invalid and agreeing to
administer the Decedent's estate as an intestate estate.
After our decision in Morris I and entry of the
agreed order, the legislature amended Tennessee Code
Annotated section 32-1-104 to validate wills executed in the
manner of the will at issue here. Relying on this amendment,
Proponents of the will filed a Rule 60.02 motion asserting
that "it is no longer equitable that the [agreed final
judgment] should have prospective effect and relief from the
operation is justified." The trial court denied Rule
60.02 relief and proponents of the will appeal. Discerning no
error, we affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Affirmed and Remanded.
Capparella and Tyler Chance Yarbro, Nashville, Tennessee, for
the appellants, Gary Lee Morris and Pamela Jean Morris.
R. Smith and Katie Tolliver Jones, Knoxville, Tennessee, for
the appellees, Estate of Bill Morris, Deceased, Bill Morris,
Jr., and Cheryl Morris.
Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
Arnold B. Goldin and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ., joined.
the second appeal of this case. In In re Estate of
Morris, No. M2014-00874-COA-R3-CV, 2015 WL 557970, at *4
(Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 9, 2015), perm. app. denied
(Tenn. June 15, 2015) (Morris I), we held that the
signatures of the witnesses on an affidavit, but not on the
will, did not satisfy the statutory formalities for the valid
execution of a will. Morris I at *4. Consequently,
we concluded that the Decedent died intestate. Id.
After the Tennessee Supreme Court denied certiorari, the
parties entered an agreed final judgment on October 13, 2015.
The agreed final judgment states that the "putative will
of Bill Morris is not a will and Bill Morris died
intestate." The judgment goes on to state that
"[u]pon entry of this final judgment, the probate of the
estate of Bill Morris shall commence immediately. . ."
and defines the terms of the estate's administration.
Morris I was decided, in April 2016, the legislature
added subsection (b) to Tennessee Code Annotated section
32-1-104. This statutory amendment allows the integration of
the attestation affidavit to the will itself such that wills
not otherwise validly executed under the prior law may be
entered into probate. The new section of the statute reads as
(b) (1) For wills executed prior to July 1, 2016, to the
extent necessary for the will to be validly executed, witness
signatures affixed to an affidavit meeting the requirements
of § 32-2-110 shall be considered signatures to the
will, provided that:
(A) The signatures are made at the same time as the testator
signs the will and are made in accordance with subsection
(B) The affidavit contains language meeting all the
requirements of subsection (a).
(2) If the witnesses signed the affidavit on the same day
that the testator signed the will, it shall be presumed that
the witnesses and the testator signed at the same time,
unless rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. If,
pursuant to this subsection (b), witness signatures on the
affidavit are treated as signatures on the will, the
affidavit shall not also serve as a self-proving affidavit
under § 32-2-110. Nothing in this subsection (b) shall
affect, eliminate, or relax the requirement in subsection (a)
that the testator sign the will.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 32-1-104(b).
13, 2016, proponents of the will, Pamela Morris and Gary
Morris (together "Appellants"), filed a motion
pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 (4) and
(5) in the trial court. Appellants asserted that "it is
no longer equitable that the October 13, 2015 order should
have prospective effect and relief from the operation of the
judgment is justified." On August 22, 2016, Bill Morris,
Jr. and Cheryl Morris (together "Appellees"), filed
a response to Appellants' Rule 60 motion and an
accompanying memorandum. Appellees argued that a change in
the law is not generally a basis for relief under Rule 60 and
that an intervening change in the law does not exempt parties
from the doctrines of res judicata. Appellees also
argued that the separation of powers doctrine prevents the
legislature from changing the law to alter the result of a
final judgment. After a hearing, the trial court entered an
order denying Appellants' Rule 60.02 motion on October
13, 2016. Appellants appeal.