Stepmother and Son Ordered to Hand Over Inheritance to Deceased Husband’s Daughters

The Great American Life Insurance Company filed an interpleader action seeking to determine the rightful beneficiaries of two annuities belonging to decedent, Don Mitchell, in April 2016. The dispute was between Mitchell’s daughter, Ava Tanner, and Mitchell’s widow and stepson, Alita Mitchell and Craig Cheatham, respectively. After consolidation with another suit by Tanner and her sister, the District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Tanner, finding that Alita Mitchell and Craig Cheatham exercised undue influence over Mitchell, causing him to transfer certain assets to them improperly. Mitchell and Cheatham appealed the decision. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that material issues of fact existed which precluded summary judgment on the issue of undue influence, vacated the district court’s decision, and remanded the case for trial. Following a bench trial, the District Court again found in favor of Tanner and her sister. The Fifth Circuit then affirmed the decision. 

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