Thames v. Daniels

344 S.C. 564, 544 S.E.2d 854 (2001)

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Thames v. Daniels

South Carolina Court of Appeals
344 S.C. 564, 544 S.E.2d 854 (2001)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

Doris Thames was married to Harry Thames and had two daughters from a prior marriage, Doris Verdery (plaintiff) and Betty Daniels (defendant). Doris was in her late eighties. Doris lived with Verdery. In March 1996, Verdery petitioned the probate court to be appointed as Doris’s guardian, arguing that Doris had dementia and was mentally incompetent. Based on the medical evidence submitted, the probate court denied Verdery’s petition. In May 1996, Doris executed a durable power of attorney in Verdery’s favor. Shortly after, Harry brought a family-court petition seeking visitation with Doris, which was granted. Harry subsequently violated the terms of the visitation order and was held in contempt. In the contempt order, the family court opined that Doris was incompetent. Harry then brought an action in probate court to be appointed as Doris’s guardian, arguing that she was mentally incapacitated. The probate court appointed Harry as Doris’s guardian, finding that Doris was unable to independently maintain her physical condition. In December 1996, Doris executed a new durable power of attorney naming Daniels as her agent and revoked the May 1996 power of attorney. Verdery petitioned to set aside the December 1996 power of attorney, arguing Doris lacked mental capacity when she executed it, as demonstrated by the prior guardianship order and the family-court contempt order stating that Doris was incompetent. Daniels denied Verdery’s claims and produced five witnesses who testified to Doris’s mental capacity in December 1996, including three doctors who had examined Doris in December 1996 and the legal assistant who witnessed Doris’s execution of the new power of attorney. The probate court held that Doris was mentally competent when she executed the December 1996 power of attorney. Verdery appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stilwell, J.)

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