FROM THE CROSS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NO. 19-PR-2013-26.
HONORABLE BENTLEY E. STORY, JUDGE.
Appellant: ANDREA WITCHER BROCK.
Appellee: JOHN DUDLEY BRIDGFORTH, DANNY WAYNE GLOVER.
J. GLADWIN, Chief Judge. VIRDEN and GRUBER, JJ., agree.
J. GLADWIN, Chief Judge
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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, ...