In 2010, the Virginia Supreme Court issued no fewer than 10 opinions bearing on the laws affecting fiduciaries, executors, trustees, and the estates of decedents. Yet as civil litigators in Virginia are apt to remind clients (and potential clients) exploring an appeal, being granted an appeal in a civil case to the Virginia Supreme Court is anything but assured. Appeals of civil cases to the Virginia Supreme Court generally require the grant of a writ of appeal by the Court. And even then, the Court may limit the writ of appeal to just one or two appeal issues, known as "assignments of error," that a party seeks to appeal. It is significant, therefore, that so far in 2011, the Virginia Supreme Court continues to show interest in adjudicating fiduciary litigation cases.
One appeal to watch this year is the case of Mary Ann Weedon, Individually and as Executor of the Estate of Dorothy Rose Weedon v. Larry Weedon, et al. In that case, the Court granted the petitioner a writ of appeal on five (5) assignments of error:
1. The trial court erred in failing to determine that Dorothy Rose Weedon had the requisite testamentary capacity when she executed the 2008 Will.
2. The trial court erred in failing to properly weigh the evidence of the fact witnesses at the time of the execution of the 2008 Will by ruling that the drafting attorney did not have the right to delegate certain duties owed to the testator.
3. The trial court erred in ruling the 2008 Will was the result of undue influence.
4. The trial court erred in admitting the testimony of the expert witness of the contestants and by giving undue weight to the evidence of the expert witness contrary to Virginia law.
5. The trial court erred by failing to rule that the contestants did not have sufficient corroborative evidence to support their allegations of lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence.
These assignments of error implicate a broad cross-section of legal issues in will contests, and parties who face or seek to bring a will contest will no doubt want to be on the lookout for developments in this case.