County Superior Court
Plaintiff: Bernard A. Jackvony, Esq.
Defendant: Joseph J. McGair, Esq.
Interested Party: Nicole J. Benjamin, Esq.
Intervenor: Steven E. Snow, Esq.
SILVERSTEIN, MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant Estate of Gabrielle D. Mee's
motion to dismiss Plaintiff Americans United for Life's
amended petition to probate and to reopen estate. The Legion
of Christ North America, Inc. (Legion of Christ) is the sole
beneficiary of Mrs. Mee's estate. This Court has
jurisdiction pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 33-23-1.
Gabrielle D. Mee passed away on May 16, 2008, following a
life devoted to the Catholic faith. Throughout her life, Mrs.
Mee was exceptionally generous, specifically to organizations
committed to advancing the moral teachings of the Catholic
Church. Two of those organizations that benefited from Mrs.
Mee's extraordinary good will-the Legion of Christ and
Americans United for Life-are currently before this Court. In
addition to the extensive donations made during her lifetime,
Mrs. Mee also sought to provide for these organizations
beyond her death. At different times, Americans United for
Life and the Legion of Christ were named beneficiaries in the
several iterations of her will.
Legion of Christ is an order of the Catholic Church with
which Mrs. Mee became familiarized at the end of the 1980s
and into the 1990s. Pl.'s Am. Pet. for Probate of Will,
Mem. in Supp. of Am. Pet. to Probate and to Reopen Estate, at
¶¶ 4, 14. (Am. Pet.). After touring the Legion of
Christ's center in Connecticut and meeting with its
General Director, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, Mrs. Mee
gave a $1, 000, 000 gift to the order. Id. at ¶
15. Following her first visit, Mrs. Mee grew closer to the
Legion of Christ, resulting in another gift of $3, 000, 000
in November of 1991. Id. at ¶ 19.
to that substantial gift, on October 10, 1991, Mrs. Mee
executed a will (the 1991 Will), revoking all of her prior
wills and codicils, as well as directing that ninety percent
of her estate go to the Legion of Christ and naming Fleet
National Bank as the estate's executor. Id.;
see Pl.'s Ex. D at 166 "Last Will and
Testament of Gabrielle D. Mee." Also included in the 1991
Will was a direction that the remaining ten percent of the
estate go to Americans United for Life. Am. Pet. at ¶
19. Americans United for Life is a pro-life, educational,
nonprofit organization and public interest law firm with its
national headquarters in Washington, D.C. In addition to
naming Americans United for Life as a beneficiary of her 1991
Will, Mrs. Mee donated upwards of $600, 000 to the group from
1989 to 2002. Id. at ¶ 20.
in 1995, Mrs. Mee executed a codicil to the 1991 Will, which
removed Americans United for Life as a beneficiary of her
estate. Id. at ¶ 23. This codicil also
allocated one hundred percent of her assets to the Legion of
Christ. Id. Thereafter, in 1999, Mrs. Mee executed a
second codicil to the 1991 Will, which placed an investment
restriction on the executor to ensure that her estate did not
benefit entities inconsistent with Catholic doctrine.
Id. at ¶ 28.
December 14, 2000, Mrs. Mee executed a will (the 2000 Will)
that revoked the 1991 Will and both of its codicils.
Pl.'s Ex. D at 176, "Last Will and Testament of
Gabrielle D. Mee." Aside from reaffirming Mrs. Mee's
direction to give one hundred percent of her estate to the
Legion of Christ, the 2000 Will replaced Fleet National Bank
as executor and named Father Anthony Bannon-a member of the
Legion of Christ-in its place. Id. However, Fleet
National Bank remained as an alternate executor. Id.
Finally, in 2002, Mrs. Mee executed a codicil to the 2000
Will that removed Fleet National Bank as an alternate
executor and replaced it with Father Christopher Bracket.
See Pl.'s Ex. D at 173. Six years later, in
2008, Mrs. Mee passed away.
March 6, 2009, Father Bannon, as the named executor,
petitioned the Smithfield Probate Court to probate the 2000
Will and its 2002 codicil. Over the course of the next
month-in anticipation of the April 2, 2009 hearing to probate
the 2000 Will-notice of the probate proceedings was published
in The Providence Journal. This notice was published
in the newspaper once a week for two weeks. Thereafter, in
June of 2009, Mrs. Mee's niece, Mary Lou Dauray,
petitioned the Smithfield Probate Court to challenge the
admission of the 2000 Will to probate. However, on February
4, 2010, the Smithfield Probate Court entered a Consent Order
admitting the 2000 Will to probate. Am. Pet. at ¶ 3;
see Pl.'s Ex. D at 173.
that month, Ms. Dauray appealed to this Court claiming that
the 2000 Will was the result of the Legion of Christ's
undue influence over her aunt. Am. Pet. at ¶ 7. This
Court dismissed Ms. Dauray's appeal for lack of standing
in September 2012. Id. at ¶ 8. In its decision,
this Court noted that the 1991 Will named the Legion of
Christ and Americans United for Life as beneficiaries in
addition to stating the gifts allocated therein. In February
2013, Ms. Dauray appealed this Court's decision to the
Rhode Island ...