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Messerli v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

September 18, 2019

DOUGLAS A MESSERLI, ET AL.
v.
VICKIE SUE WILLIAMS, ET AL.

          Session: May 21, 2019.

          Appeal from the Chancery Court for Knox County No. 188158-3 Michael W. Moyers, Chancellor.

         This action was filed by two brothers, after the death of their father, contesting the validity of an amendment to their father's trust agreement. The brothers alleged that their siblings coerced their infirmed father to amend his trust in such a manner that was favorable to the siblings' pecuniary interests and that two sisters had a confidential relationship with their father. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of the defendants. The plaintiffs appealed. We affirm the decision.

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

          T. Michael Craig-Grubbs, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Douglas A. Messerli, and Charles Messerli.

          Mital D. Patel, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Vickie Sue Williams, Logan Williams, Beverly K. Blakeman, Billy Messerli, and Lisa D. Edquist.[1]

          John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., and Thomas R. Frierson, II, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          JOHN W. MCCLARTY, JUDGE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Roy A. Messerli ("Father") was a retired nuclear submarine inspector, a general contractor, and an owner/operator of several rental properties. Father lived in California until about 2006, when he and his wife moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. Their daughter, Beverly K. Blakeman ("Blakeman") lived with her parents.

         On January 10, 2008, Father executed updated estate planning documents which included a Will, Power of Attorney, Living Will, and the "Roy A. Messerli 2008 Revocable Trust Agreement" ("the 2008 Trust"). These documents had been prepared by Knoxville attorney Dale C. Allen.

         At the time of execution of these documents, Father was a widower. He named as his children: Douglas A. Messerli, Billy Steven Messerli, Beverly K. Blakeman, Vickie Sue Williams ("Defendant Williams"), Lisa Doreen Edquist, and Charles Messerli. Charles Messerli was Father's son from his first marriage. The other five children were from his second marriage. Father appointed Defendant Williams as the Personal Representative of his Will and his attorney-in-fact, with Blakeman as the successor. Father appointed Defendant Williams, Blakeman, and Logan Williams as Co-Trustees of the 2008 Trust. If any of the original trustees were unable or unwilling to serve, the remaining trustees could serve without appointing a successor. A successor trustee could be appointed by Father, if not disabled, or by his children, but only those who were not disabled. In addition, the 2008 Trust provided Blakeman the option to purchase Father's home within six months from the date of Father's death.

         On August 3, 2010, Father executed an amendment to the 2008 Trust ("the 2010 Amendment"), pursuant to Section 9 of the 2008 Trust. Douglas A. Messerli and Charles Messerli (collectively, "Plaintiffs") contest this amendment in this appeal.

         In 2011, Father was diagnosed with lung cancer. He passed away on December 3, ...


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