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Nat’l Heritage Realty, Inc. v. Estate of Boles, 947 So. 2d 238 (Miss. 2006)

Prior to filing suit, Plaintiff opened an estate for resident in Tallahatchie County. After the suit was filed, Defendants filed a motion to render appointment of the administrator void ab initio, contending the estate should have been filed in Leflore county. Plaintiffs then filed a petition for the appointment of an administrator in Leflore county and the Tallahatchie county probate was transferred to Leflore county. The chancery court denied Defendants’ motion to render the appointment void ab initio but certified an interlocutory appeal. While Defendants pursued their interlocutory appeal, they also pursued summary judgment contending the administrator had no authority to file a wrongful death action, that she was not a spouse, child, parent, or sibling, and that the appointment as an administrator in the original estate was void ab initio.

The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment and the interlocutory appeal was granted. On appeal, the cases were consolidated. On appeal, the court found that Defendants had the standing to challenge the jurisdictional basis of the probate proceeding. The court then found that the nursing home resident was a resident of Leflore county (where the nursing home was located). The court found that Miss. Code Ann. § 91-7-63(1) is an exclusive venue statute, making it jurisdictional in nature and that the original probate case should have been dismissed; transfer of the probate action failed to cure the underlying jurisdictional problem. As a result, the administrator had no authority to bring the suit and the trial court erred in not granting Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on that basis.

Two issues come to mind from a review of this case. First, in many cases, it is worthwhile to retain estate counsel to handle probate matters because they will be more familiar with the process and can expedite handling it appropriately. Second, this case underscores the danger of multi-jurisdictional practice since in many States, residing in a nursing home does not change legal residence; in this case, it did and failed to recognize it was significant.

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