Settlement reached in estate case of late Astec Industries CEO J. Don Brock

Settlement reached in estate case of late Astec Industries CEO J. Don Brock

January 21st, 2019 by Zack Peterson in Local Regional News

A will contest involving five adopted siblings who say their stepmother removed them from multimillion-dollar estate of late Astec Industries CEO J. Don Brock has been closed.

Attorneys on both sides declined to provide specifics about the September 2018 settlement, citing a nondisclosure agreement.

But documents in Hamilton County Chancery Court say "all legitimate claims against the estate have been satisfied," indicating the siblings received something from the settlement. The documents estimated the value of Brock's gross estate at more than $5 million.

J. Don Brock

J. Don Brock

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Famous for launching the billion-dollar Astec Industries in 1972, J. Don Brock and his first wife adopted the five siblings in 1983.

Brock drew up wills in 1994, 1998 and 2006 that included the siblings, court records show. Although some siblings weren't included in some of the older wills, their names disappeared altogether from a 2012 draft and a 2013 final will.

According to a lawsuit they filed in September 2015, the siblings didn't learn they were disinherited until Brock died from mesothelioma cancer in March 2015.

The lawsuit was filed by Melissa Sue Brock Adcock, Krystal Gail Brock Parker, Jennifer Rebecca Brock, Daryl Williams Brock and Walter Edward Brock.

It alleged their father's second wife, Sammye Brock, teamed up with Brock's two other adopted children, her two children and the estate's co-executor to remove them from the 2013 will.

Sammye Brock, who had been J. Don Brock's secretary, wanted to preserve the "assets and reputation of Astec Industries," their attorneys, Jerry Summers and Marya Schalk, wrote at the time. They argued that multiple changes to the wills over time showed "undue influence."

Attorneys for the Brock estate argued the siblings had no standing to contest the 2013 will because they didn't receive anything from an earlier will. Attorney Richard Bethea cited a 1906 Tennessee Supreme Court case, Cowan v. Walker, which caused Hamilton County Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton to dismiss the will contest in February 2016.

The siblings appealed. Although a Tennessee appeals court upheld the dismissal, one appeals judge encouraged the Tennessee Supreme Court to examine "their practical application" of Cowan. While Summers and Schalk said a new precedent was needed to replace Cowan, Bethea said that decision and other cases protected estates from being taken hostage by litigation.

In November 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the siblings. Justice Cornelia Clark said the five only needed to prove they would receive a share of the estate if Brock's challenged wills were set aside. Clark said they had proven that, and the case returned to Hamilton County.

Back here, Bethea filed motions in support of J. Don Brock, saying the business magnate provided for his children with house payments, education, later employment at Astec, and legal help when they got into criminal trouble in their youth.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.


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