Who’s Interested?

August 28, 2018 § Leave a comment

MCA § 91-7-295 provides that, to close an estate, “Summons shall be issued or publication be made for all parties interested.” The interested parties have the opportunity to contest the final account.

Only thing is, the statute does not define who is an interested party. And, to compound matters, neither has case law. Until August 23, 2018.

On that date the MSSC handed down Ferrell v. Cole, which looked to the will contest statute to help define who would constitute interested parties under Section 295. The unanimous decision (Randolph not partcipating) by Justice King said this:

¶10. The statute regarding will contests provides that all interested parties must be made parties to a will contest. Miss. Code Ann. § 91-7-25 (Rev. 2013). This Court has noted that interested parties under the will contest statute are those whose direct pecuniary interests will be affected by the will. Garrett v. Bohannon, 621 So. 2d 935, 937 (Miss. 1993). Interested parties includes heirs-at-law, beneficiaries under earlier wills, and beneficiaries under the will being contested. Id. The Mississippi Court of Appeals has noted that interested parties in a will contest may also include creditors, as they may have a direct pecuniary interest in the estate. See In re Estate of Necaise, 126 So. 3d 49, 56 (Miss. Ct. App. 2013). A similar standard should be used to define interested parties regarding the final accounting under Section 91-7-295. To be an interested party under the statute, the party must have some legal tie to the estate in the fashion of a direct pecuniary interest. …

In this case, Tullos, an attorney, had gotten the chancery court to approve a contingent fee contract for wrongful death litigation on behalf of the estate. When he went to close the estate, the Ferrell Group, attorneys, objected claiming a dispute with Tullos over fees. Ferrell had never probated a claim against the estate, and there was no mention of Ferrell in the contract pre-approved by the court. The MSSC affirmed the chancellor’s conclusion that Ferrell was not an interested party within the meaning of the statute.

Closely related to the issue of notice is the issue of who is an interested party for the purpose of standing. It would seem that a person would have to be an interested party within the meaning of the statute in order to have standing to intervene or to sue to demand an accounting, and that interested party ” … must have some legal tie to the estate in the fashion of a direct pecuniary interest.”

So, what constitutes that kind of “direct pecuniary interest?” We’ll look at a case tomorrow that raises some questions in an attempt to answer that question.

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