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Howard v. Leonard

Court of Appeals of Georgia

November 20, 2014

HOWARD
v.
LEONARD

Reconsideration denied December 12, 2014.

Estate. Catoosa Superior Court. Before Judge House.

R. Leslie Waycaster, Jr., for appellant.

Joseph E. Willard, Jr., for appellee.

BRANCH, Judge. Barnes, P. J., and Boggs, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 467

Branch, Judge.

A father, mother, and daughter had been joint owners of a credit union account for 16 years when the father died. While the mother was still alive and with her purported endorsement, the daughter then moved half of the account balance into an account for her mother and half into an account for herself. One of the daughter's brothers, who was subsequently appointed as his mother's conservator, later [330 Ga.App. 332] filed suit seeking a declaration that all the funds belonged to the mother, not the daughter. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the brother and denied the daughter's cross-motion in which she sought to establish ownership of half of the account. The daughter appeals both rulings. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

On appeal from the grant of summary judgment, appellate courts " conduct[ ] a de novo review of the evidence to determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact and whether the undisputed facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, warrant judgment as a matter of law." Shekhawat v. Jones, 293 Ga. 468, 469 (746 S.E.2d 89) (2013) (citation omitted); State Dept. of Corrections v. Developers Sur. & Indem. Co., 324 Ga.App. 371, 372 (750 S.E.2d 697) (2013).

Where the evidence on motion for summary judgment is ambiguous or doubtful, the party opposing the motion must be given the benefit of all reasonable doubts and of all favorable inferences and such evidence construed most favorably to the party opposing the motion. Furthermore, while a movant's evidence is to be carefully scrutinized, a respondent's evidence is to be treated with indulgence.

Layfield v. Dept. of Transp., 280 Ga. 848, 850 (632 S.E.2d 135) (2006) (citations and punctuation omitted).

Construed in favor of the appellant for the purpose of addressing the appellee's summary judgment, the facts show that Royce and Leola Leonard were married for many years and at least 20 years ago, Royce, an employee of the United States Postal Service, established joint account No. 6626 with Leola at the Atlanta Postal Credit Union (" APCU" ). The Leonards raised three children -- Ronald, David, and Marketta (now known as Marketta Howard) -- who are all now adults. On November 21, 1995, Royce, Leola, and Marketta Howard signed a " Joint Membership Agreement" with APCU regarding account No. 6626. The agreement provides that going forward, all past and future deposits would be owned " jointly with right of survivorship," any member could withdraw funds deposited into the account, and upon the death of one or more members, all deposits would vest in the survivor or survivors:

The undersigned hereby apply for a " joint membership" in the Atlanta Postal Credit Union and, in consideration of the approval of applicants in joint membership by the said credit union, do hereby agree each with the other and with the said credit union, that all sums now invested in deposits or [330 Ga.App. 333] hereafter paid in as payments on deposits, and all interest therefrom shall be owned by us jointly with ...

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