Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal Of Lawsuit Challenging Will Of Dr. J. Don Brock

  • Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought in connection with the will of Dr. J. Don Brock.

The court said, "This is an appeal of an order dismissing a will contest for lack of standing. The contestants sought to challenge the testator?s will, alleging that it was the product of fraud and/or undue influence. The estate introduced multiple prior wills that appeared to be facially valid and properly executed in which all or some of the contestants were disinherited. The Chancery Court found that the contestants would not benefit if the testator?s will was set aside and dismissed the contest for lack of standing. We affirm."

Attorney Jerry Summers had contended that five adopted children of the late Dr. Brock, wealthy longtime CEO of Astec Industries, do have standing to contest his will that left them out of his large estate.

The widow (and second wife) of Mr. Brock, Sammye Sprouse Brock, had asked that the will contest be dismissed, saying the plaintiffs do not have standing.

The will contest was brought by Walter Brock of Soddy Daisy, Darryl Brock of Soddy Daisy, Jennifer Brock of Rossville, Missy Brock Adcock of Soddy Daisy and Krissy Brock Parker of Hixson, who were omitted from the will.

Attorney John Lawrence earlier said the plaintiffs were not included in either of two wills made by Dr. Brock. Dr. Brock had several wills, and the one submitted for probate was signed Oct. 1, 2013. Dr. Brock died March 10, 2015, after battling cancer for the last three years of his life.

Attorney Summers said a successful challenge to 2012 and 2013 wills "would leave three of the contestants with $800,000 under the 2006 will. A successful challenge to the 2006 will also would leave three of the contestants with a percentage of a very large estate. A successful challenge to the 1998 will would leave four of the contestants with a percentage of a very large estate. A successful challenge to the 1994 will may then provide for intestate succession or an even earlier will in which all five of the contestants are provided for."

He also said, "A successful challenge to the 2013 will, without any prior wills being submitted, would result in the contestants taking by intestacy. So on contestants' 'best day' they could be awarded a significant portion of J. Don Brock's estate."

Attorney Summers had asked Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton to certify the will contest and send the matter back to Circuit Court. It started in Probate Court, then was sent to Circuit, then back to Probate. Chancellor Atherton dismissed the suit, citing a lack of standing by the plaintiffs.

Dr. Brock and Sammye Brock at the time of his death had nine children between them from former marriages. The second Mrs. Brock was his longtime receptionist. They were married in 1998 after he was divorced from first wife, Lynne Williams Brock, after 31 years of marriage and Ms. Sprouse was divorced from her husband. Both of those divorces were in 1996.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that Lynne Brock would receive 45 percent of Astec stock and Dr. Brock get 55 percent.

Those getting bequests in the will were Christie, Devin and Ben Brock of Lookout Mountain and Elizabeth Brock of Harrison. The will says after the death of his current wife, Sammye, that the proceeds will be distributed 50 percent to Ben, who is a top official of Astec, and 16 and two-thirds each to the other three.

As grounds, the will contest alleges improper execution or attestation, lack of testamentary capacity, and fraud or undue influence.

The five children left out were adopted by Mr. Brock and Lynne Williams Brock in 1983, joining two other adopted children, Ben and Elizabeth.

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