Watson v. Watson, 121818 NCCA, COA18-341

Docket Nº:COA18-341
Opinion Judge:ELMORE, JUDGE.
Party Name:RICHARD D. WATSON, Deceased, JANICE JOYNER-WATSON, Executrix, Plaintiff, v. LEOLA SANDERS WATSON, Defendant.
Attorney:Lewis, Deese, Nance & Briggs, LLP, by Renny W. Deese, for executrix-appellant. Sharon A. Keyes for defendant-appellee.
Judge Panel:Judges DILLON and DAVIS concur.
Case Date:December 18, 2018
Court:Court of Appeals of North Carolina
 
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RICHARD D. WATSON, Deceased, JANICE JOYNER-WATSON, Executrix, Plaintiff,

v.

LEOLA SANDERS WATSON, Defendant.

No. COA18-341

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

December 18, 2018

Heard in the Court of Appeals 19 September 2018.

Appeal by executrix from order entered 20 December 2017 by Judge Robert J. Stiehl III in Cumberland County No. 94 CVD 5230 District Court.

Lewis, Deese, Nance & Briggs, LLP, by Renny W. Deese, for executrix-appellant.

Sharon A. Keyes for defendant-appellee.

ELMORE, JUDGE.

Janice Joyner-Watson ("executrix"), the second wife and executrix of the estate of Richard D. Watson ("plaintiff" or "decedent"), appeals from an order in which the trial court (1) concluded plaintiff was in contempt for failure to abide by the terms of a 1999 equitable distribution order, and (2) directed the executrix "to take whatever measures necessary to correct the military record and place the Defendant, Leola Sanders Watson, as sole beneficiary" of plaintiff's survivor benefit plan with the military.

For the reasons stated herein, we reverse the order of the trial court.

I. Background

Plaintiff and defendant are formerly husband and wife, having been married in 1968 and divorced in 1994. In an equitable distribution order entered with the parties' consent in June 1999 ("ED order"), the trial court distributed to defendant nonvested benefits earned as a result of plaintiff's military service. The ED order included the following language: [Plaintiff] agrees to place the Defendant as sole primary beneficiary of the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and to provide a copy of said election to Defendant at the appropriate time. Plaintiff shall elect the spouse-only portion and shall select as the base amount the full amount of his monthly retired pay. If Plaintiff fails to make said election, an[ ] amount equal to the present value of SBP coverage for the Defendant shall, at the death of Plaintiff, become an obligation of his estate. In addition, the Defendant shall be entitled to such remedies for breach as are available to her in a court of law, and DFAS [Defense Finance and Accounting Services] shall treat this [or]der as the "deemed election" of the Plaintiff for SBP purposes.

Plaintiff remarried in October 2002. On 6 July 2017-approximately ten months after plaintiff's death-defendant filed a motion to hold plaintiff in contempt for failure to comply with the ED order. In the motion, which defendant filed without first...

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