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Cemetery Will Contest Fails

Court denies a defendant cemetery from contesting a will in Missouri.

Cemetery Will Contest Fails
Vince Taormina

On May 10, 2016, Donna Lynn Siebold executed a last will and testament leaving all of her assets to her husband, Duane Siebold. The will stated that if Duane were to predecease her, then the entirety of Siebold's estate would pass to the Chariton Grove Cemetery Association. Duane died in January 2019, meaning that under the terms of the Will, the Cemetery Association would receive the entirety of Donna's estate upon her death.

On February 5, 2019, Donna executed a second will. This Will granted half of her estate to her granddaughter and her granddaughter's husband, and the other half to the Cemetery Association. Donna died on May 28, 2020.

The Cemetery Association filed a Petition to Contest Will on May 4, 2021 in Macon County, Missouri. It alleged that the 2016 Will should control and that Donna did not have the mental capacity to make a will on February 5, 2019. The trial court dismissed the will contest and the Cemetery Association appealed.

On appeal, the Missouri Court of Appeals held that the trial court was right in dismissing the Will Contest. When the Cemetery Association filed its petition, it sought to have the trial court admit Donna's 2016 will to probate in place of the contested 2019 will. The Cemetery Association admitted that it did not present the 2016 will in a timely manner, but nevertheless argued that that will should be probated.

The Court of Appeals disagreed with the Cemetery Association, stating that since the Association did not timely file the 2016 will, it actually had more to lose than if the 2019 will was probated. See, if the Cemetery Association was able to set aside the 2019 will despite the fact that it failed to present the 2016 will for probate in a timely manner, the Cemetery Association would not have received anything since Donna would have been considered intestate. The Cemetery Association is not an heir to Donna's estate under the rules of intestate succession, so it would have received nothing.

The Court, in a way, saved the Cemetery Association by disallowing it to probate the 2016 will instead of the 2019 will. At least the Cemetery Association would receive something under the 2019 will.

Chariton Grove Cemetery Association v. Love, 640 S.W.3d 776 (Mo. App. W.D. 2022).

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