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Robinson v. Estate of Robinson

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

March 2, 2016

RICHARD ROBINSON, APPELLANT
v.
ESTATE OF HARRY ROBINSON, SR., DECEASED, and BENNE ROBINSON, APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM THE CROSS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NO. 19-PR-2013-26. HONORABLE BENTLEY E. STORY, JUDGE.

         For Appellant: ANDREA WITCHER BROCK.

         For Appellee: JOHN DUDLEY BRIDGFORTH, DANNY WAYNE GLOVER.

         ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Chief Judge. VIRDEN and GRUBER, JJ., agree.

          OPINION

Page 262

          ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Chief Judge

         Appellant Richard Robinson appeals the order entered on December 29, 2014, by the Cross County Circuit Court. He argues that the circuit court erred in declining to set aside the May 17, 2011 will (Will) of his father based on findings that his stepmother, appellee Benne Robinson, met her burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that his father possessed mental capacity, testamentary capacity, and competency to make and execute the Will and that she also met her burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that she did not procure the will through undue influence. We affirm.

         I. Facts

         Harry Robinson, Sr. (Decedent), died on January 10, 2013, at age eighty-six. He had suffered for several years from Parkinson's disease and various other illnesses, including dementia. Decedent was predeceased by his first wife, Jean Robinson, who died in 1995. They had three sons together. Richard is the only living child of Decedent. The youngest son, Lee, died several years prior to Decedent's

Page 263

death. The oldest son, Harry, Jr., known as Rudy, died on May 11, 2011. Decedent had been a farmer most of his life, and prior to Rudy's death, Decedent and Rudy had been engaged in a farming partnership. Neither Lee nor Rudy had children surviving them.

         Decedent was also survived by his second wife, appellee Benne Robinson (Benne). Decedent married Benne in 1998 when he was seventy-two years old and she was forty-nine years old. The couple had been involved in an ongoing affair since Benne was around twenty years old. Decedent and Benne did not have any children together.

         In October 2006, while Decedent was still able to drive, he scheduled an appointment with his attorney, Mr. Danny Glover, and his two living sons, Rudy and Richard, were present for that meeting. At that time, Decedent instructed Mr. Glover to prepare a will, which provided for Benne to have their home and approximately twenty acres and a one-half interest in cattle, and the remainder of the property was to go to his two sons.

         Benne learned of the 2006 will and its contents sometime in 2010, subsequent to which she scheduled an appointment for Decedent to go to Mr. Glover's office and execute a new will, dated October 6, 2010, and a limited durable power of attorney. That will set out Decedent's plan to sell 680 acres of farmland, leaving $300,000 to Rudy, $200,000 to Richard, and the remainder to Benne.

         In February 2011, Benne made an appointment for Decedent and took him to Mr. Glover's office to execute a codicil to the 2010 will, which stated he was selling the property under contract, with ten annual payments of $40,000 to be paid to him, or if he died, to Benne, and when the final balloon payment was made, Rudy was to receive $300,000, Richard $200,000, and the remainder to Benne.

         When his brother Rudy died on May 11, 2011, Richard did not immediately go to Decedent but rather went to see Rudy's wife, Linda, with whom both Decedent and Benne had a strained relationship. When Richard did go to Decedent's home shortly after Rudy's death, he told Benne that she was not welcome at Rudy's visitation or funeral. Mr. Glover testified that Decedent told him that he (Decedent) was present when Richard said this. Decedent's caretaker, Rebecca Dixon, was also present.

         On May 17, 2011, Benne took Decedent to Mr. Glover's office for a conference because Decedent wanted to make a new will. The witnesses to the execution of the Will, Casey Shaw and Paula Stroud, and notary, Cathey Haire, each testified that Decedent was acting under his own free will and no undue influence when he signed the Will. Mr. Glover also testified that Decedent was not acting under any undue influence when he signed the 2011 Will. Mr. Glover wrote a memo on May 19, 2011, wherein he related circumstances concerning his meeting with Decedent outside the presence of Benne prior to execution of the Will on May 17, ...


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