EX PARTE Mary CHMIELEWSKI, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Yvonne Speer Hoover, Deceased; Grace Ellis; and Roger Stone
Grace Ellis and Roger Stone) (In re Tere Mills
for Writ of Mandamus (Baldwin Circuit Court, CV-18-900261),
Joseph C. Stankoski, J.
F. Daniell of Daniell, Upton & Perry, P.C., Daphne, for
petitioner Estate of Yvonne Speer Hoover; Steve C. Olen of
Cunningham Bounds, LLC, Mobile, for petitioner Grace Ellis;
and Robert Mudd, Jr., Mobile, for petitioner Roger Stone.
P. Coleman III, Robertsdale, for respondent.
Chmielewski, as personal representative of the estate of
Yvonne Speer Hoover, deceased; Grace Ellis; and Roger Stone
petition this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the
Baldwin Circuit Court ("the circuit court") to
vacate an order purporting to set aside its earlier dismissal
of a will contest. We grant the petition and issue the writ.
executed a will in May 2017. Hoovers will designated Tere
Mills as a beneficiary of Hoovers estate. A codicil to
Hoovers will was executed shortly before Hoover died in July
2017. The codicil eliminated Mills as a beneficiary of
Hoovers estate and added Ellis and Stone as beneficiaries.
After Hoover died, her will, along with the codicil, was
admitted to probate in the Baldwin Probate Court ("the
probate court"), and letters testamentary were issued to
Chmielewski. Thereafter, pursuant to § 43-8-199, Ala. Code
1975, Mills filed a petition in the circuit court contesting
the validity of Hoovers will, as amended by the codicil.
support of her assertion that the codicil was invalid, Mills
alleged in her petition that Stone and Ellis had unduly
influenced Hoover to execute the codicil, that Hoover lacked
the capacity to understand the effect of the codicil, that
Hoovers signature on the codicil had been forged, that Stone
and Ellis had committed a fraud on the probate court by
testifying to the validity of the codicil, and that Ellis had
engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by allegedly
drafting the codicil. Based on those averments, Mills
requested the circuit court to "determine whether said
document is the codicil of the decedent."
will-contest petition indicates that it was formally served
only on Stone and Ellis. Nevertheless, on March 23, 2018,
Chmielewski and Ellis filed a joint motion to dismiss Millss
petition. In support of their motion to dismiss,
Chmielewski and Ellis argued that Mills had failed to join
all parties required by § 43-8-200, Ala. Code 1975, which
provides, in part, that, in the event of a will contest,
"all parties interested in the probate of the will, as
devisees, legatees or otherwise, as well as those interested
in the testator if he had died intestate, as heirs,
distributees or next of kin, shall be made parties to the
contest." Chmielewski and Ellis identified 22
individuals and organizations that, they asserted, should
have been made parties. For his part, Stone submitted a
separate filing adopting the arguments in Chmielewski and
Elliss motion to dismiss.
and Ellis later filed an amendment to their motion to
dismiss, in which they argued that the circuit court never
acquired subject-matter jurisdiction over the will contest
because Mills had failed to name Hoovers estate as a party
to the contest within six months of the admission of Hoovers
will to probate. In support, they pointed to a portion of §
43-8-199, Ala. Code 1975, which provides that a will contest
may be filed "at any time within the six months after
the admission of [the] will to probate." In the
to their motion, Chmielewski and Ellis requested the circuit
court "to dismiss the Petition of Mills in its
22, 2018, the circuit court entered an order stating:
"Motion to dismiss, or in the alternative summary
judgment filed by Estate of Yvonne Speer Hoover, deceased is
hereby granted." The order did not expressly mention
Ellis. The same day, the circuit court entered an order
stating: "Motion to dismiss, or in the alternative
summary judgment filed by [Roger Stone] is hereby disposed by
separate order." On June 12, 2018, however, the circuit
court entered an additional order stating: "Motion to
dismiss, or in the alternative summary judgment, filed by
respondent Roger Stone is hereby granted."
22, 2018, 31 days after entry of the May 22, 2018, orders,
Mills filed a postjudgment motion. In that motion, Mills
cited Rule 59, Ala. R. Civ. P., and requested the circuit
court to alter, amend, or vacate the May 22, 2018, order
granting Chmielewski and Elliss motion to dismiss. On July
6, 2018, Mills filed a second ...