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In re Estate of McCollum

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

December 5, 2017

IN RE ESTATE OF EUNICE KATHERINE SANDERS McCOLLUM

          Session October 3, 2017

         Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Dickson County No. 0308026P Michael R. Meise, Judge

         This is a probate case, and the parties are Decedent's children. Appellant son filed a claim against Appellee daughter, alleging that she mishandled the Decedent's financial affairs, both during Decedent's life and after her death in 2007. In 2009, the trial court appointed a special master, who conducted two evidentiary hearings and filed two reports, which essentially exonerated Appellee from any wrong-doing. Two years later, the trial court ordered the Administrator of the estate to pay certain fees and file certain applications so that the estate could be closed, and dismissed all pending motions filed by the parties. Appellant filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment of the trial court that was denied. Concluding that the Appellant did not have standing to bring a claim against Appellee, we affirm and remand.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Probate Court Affirmed and Remanded.

          Charles Watson Cross, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Gary McCollum.

          Thomas N. Bateman and Robert T. Bateman, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Linda Rye, and Estate of Eunice Katherine Sanders McCollum.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Richard H. Dinkins and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE.

         I. Background

         Eunice McCollum ("Decedent") died January 16, 2007 at the age of 83. She is survived by her daughter, Linda Rye ("Appellee"), and her two sons Gary McCollum ("Appellant") and Mark McCollum.[1]

         In March 2008, Appellee and Appellant filed competing petitions to be appointed administrator of Decedent's estate. In support of his petition to be appointed administrator, Appellant alleges that Appellee acted inappropriately in handling Decedent's financial affairs, both during Decedent's life and after her death. Appellant's petition requests that Appellee be required to produce certain records and submit to questioning under oath. This is the only relief sought against Appellee.

         After several delays, in June 2009, the trial court appointed a special master to conduct a thorough review of Decedent's assets, receipts, income, and expenditures. Appellee was ordered to cooperate fully with the investigation. On June 15, 2010, Appellee was specifically ordered to file an accounting of all transactions from 2004 through June 2010. Appellee filed her accounting on August 19, 2010. The special master conducted two evidentiary hearings and filed two reports, which essentially exonerated Appellee from any wrong-doing.

         The first trial judge recused himself from the case on December 1, 2010 and was replaced by Judge Anthony Sanders. In August 2012, Judge Sanders appointed Kyle Sanders (no relation) as administrator of Decedent's estate. In October 2012, the Administrator filed a motion requesting a forensic accountant to help complete the task. In January 2013, Appellant filed a "motion" agreeing to Administrator's request for a forensic accountant so long as the accountant did not come from Dickson County and the fees were charged to Appellee. In his motion, Appellant also requested to be appointed as co-administrator. In March 2013, Appellee filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02. In her motion, Appellee argues that all of Appellant's filings should be stricken due to Appellant's lack of standing to pursue claims against Appellee. Although Appellant filed a lengthy response to the motion to dismiss, he did not address the issue of standing.

         On October 2, 2014, the trial court conducted a hearing, in which the Administrator testified that any bank accounts relevant to the case were jointly owned by Appellee and Decedent with right of survivorship. Additionally, the Administrator determined that, to help her parents, Appellee deposited more of her own funds in the accounts than she withdrew. The trial court entered a judgment on October 27, 2014, finding that the estate was solvent and that the only remaining property subject to administration of the estate was approximately $33, 000, which consisted of rents collected after Decedent's death. The trial court ordered that certain payments be made to the special master and the Administrator and that the remaining balance be divided equally among the Decedent's three children. The trial court specifically found that the administration of the estate "was being hampered by ...


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