Will Witnesses Testify In Wine Dispute

Posted: July 17, 2014

HARRISONBURG — Witnesses in a civil dispute over a Timberville farmer’s $1 million estate continued their testimony in Rockingham County Circuit Court on Wednesday.

Attorneys are arguing whether Raymond Wine was of sound mind when he changed his will in 2008, naming his caretaker, Dolly McAvoy, as the beneficiary.

Wine, 94, died on July 7, 2011.

His sister, Anna Johnston, 88, filed a lawsuit contesting the will in December 2011, claiming her brother was not competent when he signed the document and that McAvoy used undue influence to get him to leave her the estate.

In court Wednesday, bank employees who witnessed Wine signing his will in 2008 recalled the event for jurors on the trial’s third day, but two said they could not remember whether anything seemed unusual about it.

McAvoy began working for Wine as a farmhand in 2002, and he gave her power of attorney in 2007.

Wine was a retired government chemist with no children, and had accumulated assets totaling between $1 million and $2 million by the time of his death.

His estate includes more than 200 acres in Rockingham and Shenandoah counties, stocks, and other assets.

On Wednesday, McAvoy’s attorney, Kevin Rose, questioned employees from Farmers & Merchant’s Bank main branch in Timberville, where Wine had accounts from 2003 to 2009.

Thomas Campbell and Robert Reedy, lenders at the bank who witnessed the notarization of Wine’s will on May 5, 2008, said they could not recall if Wine behaved unusually when they met him that day.

Campbell and Reedy each said they are not experts at officiating wills and were picked by happenstance to witness the signing. Tina Weaver, bank secretary, notarized the will.

Weaver, who saw Wine in the bank at least once a week, said he typically dressed professionally.

Whenever he visited the bank, Weaver said, Wine carried himself as a businessman and “pretty much spoke for himself.”

Weaver said Wine sometimes came to the bank with McAvoy and another acquaintance.

Weaver said she did not remember if Wine acted unusually or seemed to be acting against his will when he signed the document.

Per bank policy, Weaver said, Wine was brought to a private room, without companions, to sign the will.

Johnston’s attorney, Richard Armstrong, argued Monday that Wine, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia at the time of his death, was unfit to change the will.

A court-ordered competency evaluation found Wine incompetent in June 2011, about two weeks before his death.

Wine withdrew his accounts from the Timberville bank in 2009 after being denied a loan, Weaver said.

He had signed a bill of sale for his cattle and farm equipment in 2007.

The trial is scheduled to resume today in Rockingham County Circuit Court.

Contact Amelia Brust at 574-6293 or abrust@dnronline.com

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