THE QUIRKS OF RENUNCIATION
January 14, 2013 § 1 Comment
The COA case of Estate of Weill v. Weill, decided November 6, 2012, is a reminder of several quirks involved in renunciation of wills.
- MCA 91-5-27 provides that if the decedent made no provision for a surviving spouse, the survivor has a right to share in the estate of the decedent as in the case where there is an unsatisfactory provision (see below), and no formal act of renunciation is necessary. Tillman v. Williams, 403 SO.2d 880, 881 (Miss. 1981).
- In Weill, the decedent had left his surving spouse ” … my seven beloved dogs to care for. She is to be offered $25,000 from my assets to effect the transfer of my dogs to her home …” The chancellor and the COA rejected the appellant’s argument that the bequest was really for the benefit of the dogs, noting that the cash bequest was to her and not for benefit of the canines. Thus, since there was a bequest, she could not avail herself of MCA 91-5-27.
- MCA 91-5-25 provides that if the decedent ” … does not make satisfactory provision …” for the spouse (the statute uses the word “wife”), then the spouse may renounce the will by filing a formal notice to the effect of the language suggested in the statute, and the spouse will thereupon be entitled to share in the estate to the extent set out in the statute. The renunciation must be filed within 90 days of the date of the admission of the will to probate.
- In addressing one of the appellant’s arguments, the COA noted that a renunciation filed in the stautory form before probate of the will has been found to be adequate. Gettis v. McAllister, 411 So.2d 770 (Miss. 1982).
- In Weill, although the attorney for the widow had made it known to the court and counsel opposite that the widow intended to file a renunciation, no formal renunciation was filed within the 90 days. The chancellor and the COA rejected the claim that an oral statement of intent to renounce complied with the statute.
When it comes to probate matters, the bottom line is that the requirements are all statutory, which means that they must be strictly construed and followed. Do not expect a chancellor or appellate court to fudge requirements for you because you “came close.” The fact is that close gets you no cigar. You have to be right on target. What is required is right there in the law, in black and white. If you don’t read the law in advance, you have no one to blame but yourself when things go embarrassingly and expensively wrong.