Released for Publication June 15, 2015.
Appeal from Escambia Probate Court. (Probate No.: 10058), Doug Agerton, judge (1130587). Appeal from Monroe Probate Court. (Probate No.: 3330), Steve Norman, judge (1130884).
1130587 -- REVERSED AND REMANDED. 1130884 -- REVERSED AND REMANDED.
For Appellant: Peter F. Burns of Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C., Mobile; and Kenneth Foose, Mobile.
For Appellee: William R. Stokes, Jr., of Stokes & Stokes, P.C., Brewton; and William D. Stokes of Clark, Partington, Hart, Lary, Bond & Stackhouse, Pensacola, Florida.
BOLIN, Justice. Moore, C.J., and Stuart, Parker, Murdock, Shaw, Main, Wise, and Bryan, JJ., concur.
These consolidated appeals involve the estate of Alice Earle F. Harper, deceased (hereinafter the " decedent" ). Alice Lynn Harper Taylor, the decedent's daughter (hereinafter " Alice" ), appeals in case no. 1130587, pursuant to § 12-22-21, Ala. Code 1975, from the Escambia Probate Court's admission to probate of a 2007 will allegedly executed by the decedent and filed for probate in the probate court in Escambia County. Alice also appeals in case no. 1130884 from the Monroe Probate Court's order granting a motion to dismiss Alice's petition to probate a 1995 will allegedly executed by the decedent and filed for probate in the probate court in Monroe County.
Facts and Procedural History
On March 1, 2013, the decedent died in Monroe County. She had three adult children who survived her: Alice, William C. Harper, and James R. Harper. The decedent's husband died in 2002. On November 12, 2013, Alice filed in Monroe County a petition to probate a 1995 will allegedly executed by the decedent. In her petition, Alice acknowledged that there was in existence a 2007 will that purported to be the will of the decedent. Alice challenged the validity of the 2007 will on several grounds, including lack of mental capacity and the existence of a reciprocal will by the decedent's husband that had been admitted to probate in 2002. On December 10, 2013, the Monroe Probate Court set a hearing for January 28, 2014. On January 22, 2014, the probate judge recused himself from hearing the petition. On February 20, 2014, this Court entered an order appointing a special probate judge to hear the probate proceedings in Monroe County.
Meanwhile, on January 8, 2014, William filed a petition in Escambia County to probate a 2007 will allegedly executed by the decedent. On January 17, 2014, in the Escambia Probate Court, Alice filed a motion to dismiss and/or to stay the proceeding in Escambia County until the proper venue for the probate proceeding was determined. Alice cited § 43-8-21, Ala. Code 1975, which addresses a situation like this one where there are multiple probate proceedings, and argued that under § 43-8-21 the Monroe Probate Court is the proper venue. On February 19, 2014, the Escambia Probate Court admitted the 2007 will to probate and issued letters testamentary to William, as the personal representative named in the 2007 will. On March 3, 2014, Alice filed a notice of appeal pursuant to § 12-22-21(2), Ala. Code 1975, which allows an appeal to the circuit court or to the
Alabama Supreme Court of a probate court's " judgment or order on an application claiming the right to execute a will or administer an ...