In re Estate of Austin, 389 S.W.3d 168 (Mo. banc 2013)

Factual Background:

Allegations of sexual abuse concerning Appellant’s minor children were made against Decedent in 2006.  Decedent died in 2009, but his estate did not notify Appellant or the children that the estate was opened, despite knowledge of the allegations.  Eight months after first publication of notice of the estate, Appellant filed claims against the estate under Section 473.360.  He then amended his claim as the six-month window under 473.360 had passed and filed within the one-year limitation in Section 473.444.

Gentry County Circuit Court, Dietrich, J., Held:

The Court sustained the Estate’s motion to dismiss due to the six-month statute for “known or reasonable ascertainable creditors.”  Appellant appealed.

Supreme Court, Russell, J., Held:

Reversed and Remanded.  While a personal representative to an estate is not required to take extraordinary steps to locate creditors, she must make “reasonably diligent efforts” to identify creditors.  Here, the personal representative knew the children were potential creditors and had the ability to locate Appellant to give him notice.  She interviewed the children’s relatives and did her own investigation of the case, despite the Division of Family Services concluding the claims had merit.  However, it was not for the personal representative to reach her own conclusions on the merit of the children’s claims.  Instead, the Estate’s failure to give the children actual notice of the opening of Decedent’s estate was a violation of their due process rights as it prevented them from timely filing against the estate.

Estate of Sullivan v. Sullivan, 366 S.W.3d 639 (Mo. App. S.D. 2012)

Factual Background:

Decedent died in 2007, leaving Daughter as personal representative to her estate.  In 2005, Decedent’s children entered into an agreement concerning personal property given to Son by Decedent.  Son executed two promissory notes in favor of Decedent as a result of the agreement.  At the time of Decedent’s death, Son lived on her farm.  Daughter obtained an order authorizing the sale of the farm and an order requiring Son to vacate.  Daughter then filed a motion to find Son in contempt for failing to remove two of his mobile homes from the farm.  Son then filed a petition for discovery of assets.  Daughter then filed two separate actions to collect on the two promissory notes in favor of Decedent.  Son then filed an application for partial distribution to have the value of the notes subtracted from his distributed share of the estate.

St. Francois County Circuit Court, Hyde, J., Held:

The court granted Son’s application for partial distribution, ordered the outstanding balance on promissory notes be charged against son’s share of the estate, granted son’s petition for discovery of assets, declared son owner of certain personal property, and denied the motion for contempt.  Daughter appealed.

Court of Appeals, Clayton, J., Held:

Affirmed as modified.  On the concurrent jurisdiction issue, Daughter argued the probate division did not have jurisdiction to grant the partial distribution because of the two actions pending on the promissory notes in the circuit court.  However, there are many types of cases where more than one court has proper subject matter jurisdiction.  The question is whether it was “legally erroneous” for a conflicting judgment to be entered while another action was pending.  Here, the probate division had authority to order the notes to be distributed from Decedent’s estate and the circuit court could not have granted Son with the relief he sought.  Therefore, the probate division did not interfere with the actions filed in the circuit court.

All other issues were affirmed, with the exception of three personal property items for which Son was not the owner based on his own testimony.

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