MATTHEW LANGE ET AL.
BETTY JO SULLIVAN ET AL.
Session April 9, 2019
from the Chancery Court for Carroll County No. 2016-CV-161
Carma Dennis McGee, Chancellor
father, decedent, died testate. Decedent's will devised
real property to Appellee in fee simple but also gave
Appellants the right to use the house and curtilage for so
long as Appellants' did not abandon the property for a
period of ninety consecutive days. The trial court held that
decedent's will gave Appellants a "license" to
use the property-a holding that the parties do not appeal. On
Appellee's complaint for declaratory judgment, the trial
court ordered Appellants to pay the mortgage debt, real
estate taxes, maintenance, and insurance on the property.
Appellants appeal raising the sole question of whether they
should be responsible for the mortgage on the property. We
hold that, as licensees, Appellants cannot be charged with
the mortgage debt. Accordingly, we reverse the trial
court's order as to its holding that Appellants are
responsible for the mortgage payments. The trial court's
order is otherwise affirmed.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Reversed in Part, Affirmed in Part, and
J. Leonard, Camden, Tennessee, for the appellants, Betty Jo
Sullivan, and Jonathan Sullivan.
Dewayne D. Maddox, III, Huntingdon, Tennessee, for the
appellee, Matthew Lange.
Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
John W. McClarty and Arnold B. Goldin, JJ., joined.
Wesley Lange ("Decedent") died testate on July 13,
2014. Decedent's son, Appellee Matthew Lange, was named
Executor in the Decedent's will. At the time of his
death, Decedent had a paramour, Betty Jo Sullivan. Ms.
Sullivan and her son, Jonathan Sullivan, are the Appellants.
Decedent's will was admitted to probate in Carroll County
on July 17, 2014. As is relevant to this appeal, the will
SIXTH: I hereby specifically give, devise, and bequeath my
real property located at 14905 Highway 70, Huntingdon,
Tennessee . . . to my son, Matthew Lange, to be his subject
to the rights of Betty Jo Sullivan and Jonathan Sullivan to
reside in the home on my property until such time as they
abandon that right by failing to reside in the same for a
period of 90 days consecutive or they voluntarily relinquish
time of Decedent's death, the Highway 70 property (the
"Property") was encumbered by a mortgage of
approximately $27, 000.00. There is no proof that either
Appellant was a party to the mortgage contract.
January 9, 2015, Appellants filed a complaint for will
construction against Appellee seeking
interpretation/clarification of paragraph six of
Decedent's will, supra.. The trial court heard
the complaint on April 8, 2016. By order of June 7, 2016, the
trial court found
that the parties, by and through their respective attorneys,
announced that the [Appellants] retain the right to live in
and occupy the house, driveway and curtilage [of the
Property] . . . subject to conditions subsequent,
namely, until such  time as they abandon
that right by failing to ...