Butler v. ButlerAnnotate this Case
Larry Butler, individually and as executor of the Estate of Elizabeth S. Butler, appealed a circuit court judgment declaring void the will of Elizabeth S. Butler executed in October 2012, and setting aside the Probate Court's admission of that will to probate. Ned Butler, Sr. ("Ned"), and Elizabeth Butler ("Betty") were married and had three children, Ned N. Butler, Jr., Steve Butler, and Michael Robin Butler ("Robin"). In July 2008, after numerous discussions about their estate, Ned and Betty executed a document entitled The Butler Family Trust, a joint revocable living trust that contained provisions for the well being of themselves, their children, and their grandchildren. Ned and Betty executed wills identical in all material respects that provided that their assets pour over into The Butler Family Trust at their deaths. In September 2011, Ned and Betty executed new wills that were virtually identical to their July 2008 wills with the exception that different alternate executors were named. Ned died in late 2011. In October 2012, Betty executed a will in which she expressly revoked all other wills and codicils. The distribution of Betty's estate in this new will differed from the distribution of her estate as provided in The Butler Family Trust; Larry was named executor of her will. Betty died in late 2013. The Probate Court admitted Betty's 2012 will to probate in 2014. The following day, Ned Jr.'s children filed a complaint with the Circuit Court against Larry, individually and as executor of Betty's estate, contesting Betty's 2012 will. The circuit court set aside Betty's will and declared it void. Larry moved to vacate the circuit court's judgment, arguing that the court erred in applying 43-8-250, Ala. Code 1975, to the facts of this case because, as he contended, there was language in the Butler Family Trust prohibiting Betty from changing the trust after Ned's death, but that there was no language in either the Family Trust or Betty's earlier wills creating a contract that prohibited her from changing anything else. The circuit court denied the motion, and Larry appealed. Because the evidence did not establish that Betty entered into a contract not to revoke her will or a devise, the Supreme Court concluded the circuit court's judgment declaring Betty's 2012 will to be void and setting aside the probate court's order to admit that will to probate because Betty had executed a contract not to revoke her 2011 will was erroneous.