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Wallace v. Davies

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

January 15, 2020

DAWN WALLACE, et al. Appellant
v.
WILLIAM DAVIES Appellee

          APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. 2018-CV-93

          CHARLES TYLER, SR., Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          NICHOLAS SCHNECKENBURGER, Attorney at Law, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          JENNIFER HENSAL, JUDGE

         {¶1} Dawn Wallace appeals from the judgment of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, granting summary judgment in favor of William Davies. This Court affirms.

         I.

         {¶2} This appeal stems from a will-contest action wherein Ms. Wallace and her four siblings contested a later-dated will of their mother, Bonnie Becker. By way of background, Ms. Becker was married to Mr. Davies until their divorce in 2015. On December 19, 2014, while they were married, Ms. Becker executed a will ("2014 Will"). In it, she devised all of her real and personal property to her five children equally, and appointed Ms. Wallace as the executor. The 2014 Will contained no provision for Mr. Davies. Then, on August 8, 2017, Ms. Becker executed a new will ("2017 Will"). In the 2017 Will, Ms. Becker devised 10% of her real and personal property to each of her five children, and devised the remaining 50% to a trust for the benefit of her grandson, whom she had custody of. The 2017 Will appointed Mr. Davies as the trustee of that trust, and as the executor. Ms. Becker passed away weeks after she executed the 2017 Will.

         {¶3} After she passed, Ms. Becker's five children filed a will-contest action, alleging, in part, that Ms. Becker was unduly influenced by Mr. Davies at the time she executed the 2017 Will, that she lacked the requisite testamentary capacity, and that the signature on the 2017 Will was not Ms. Becker's signature, or that it was procured as a result of fraud committed by Mr. Davies.

         {¶4} Mr. Davies moved for summary judgment, arguing that there was no evidence of undue influence, that Ms. Becker had testamentary capacity, and that the signature on the 2017 Will was valid. The probate court granted Mr. Davies's motion. Ms. Wallace now appeals, raising one assignment of error for this Court's review.

         II.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

         THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FAVOR O[F] THE DEFENDANT/APPELLEE.

         {¶5} In her assignment of error, Ms. Wallace argues that the probate court erred by granting summary judgment because a genuine issue of material fact remained as to whether Mr. Davies exerted undue influence over Ms. Becker. Ms. Wallace has not challenged the probate court's determination regarding Ms. Becker's testamentary capacity or the validity of her signature. This Court's analysis, therefore, will focus solely on the issue of undue influence.

         {¶6} This Court reviews an award of summary judgment de novo. Grafton v. Ohio Edison Co., 77 Ohio St3d 102, 105 (1996). Pursuant to ...


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