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Covenant Presbytery v. First Baptist Church

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I and II

June 17, 2015

COVENANT PRESBYTERY, APPELLANT
v.
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, OSCEOLA, ARKANSAS, APPELLEE/CROSS-APPELLANT
v.
SUN TRUST BANK, AS TRUSTEE UNDER THE WILL OF STANLEY D. CARPENTER, APPELLEE/CROSS-APPELLEE

Page 191

APPEAL FROM THE MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, OSCEOLA DISTRICT. NO. CV-11-101. HONORABLE RANDY F. PHILHOURS, JUDGE.

Sanford Law Firm, PLLC, by: Josh Sanford, for appellant.

Branch, Thompson, Warmath & Dale, P.A., by: Robert F. Thompson III, for appellee/cross-appellant First Baptist Church.

Rose Law Firm, by: Craig S. Lair and Bourgon B. Reynolds, for cross-appellee SunTrust Bank.

BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge. VIRDEN, HIXSON, GRUBER, WHITEAKER, and BROWN, JJ., agree.

OPINION

Page 192

BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge

This appeal presents a dispute between church entities about who takes what under a testamentary trust. The circuit court ruled for First Baptist Church. Covenant Presbytery appeals that decision. We agree with Covenant Presbytery and therefore reverse on direct appeal, which moots First Baptist's cross-appeal.

I. Facts

Stanley Carpenter died testate in 1967. His last will and testament was administrated through the Mississippi County

Page 193

Probate Court, and the court appointed National Bank of Commerce in Memphis, Tennessee, as the executor and trustee of the estate. From 1967 to 2005, National Bank of Commerce managed some farmland that Carpenter owned at his death. The farmland is 238 acres located near Osceola, Arkansas. Since 2005, Sun Trust Bank has managed the farmland as National Bank's successor.

National Bank of Commerce distributed annual income produced from the farmland to Stanley Carpenter's family members--Ruth Carter Love, Carolyn Schabel, Mary Greenway, and Henry and Mae Carpenter--after the probate case closed in the late 1960s. By 2003, some of Carpenter's family members who were trust beneficiaries had died, and National Bank of Commerce distributed the farm's net income this way: (1) one-fourth to Carolyn Schabel; (2) one-fourth to Mary Greenway; (3) one-fourth to First Presbyterian Church of Osceola, Arkansas; and (4) one-fourth to ...


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