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COA rules in favor of grandchildren in will dispute

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The Indiana Court of Appeals had to interpret a handwritten will from 1917 in a dispute among those who stood to inherit land in Benton County. The appellate court determined that the trial court properly ruled that John and Karen LeFebre could collectively receive a one-third share in the acreage.

In William Pereira and Joseph McConnell v. Monica Pereira, John LeFebre and Karen LeFebre, 04A05-1205-PL-241, Joseph Sleeper created a will that bequeathed 358 acres of land to his wife and upon her death to Margaret I. McConnell and Joseph W. McConnell, the children of Sleeper’s friend. His will said he wanted the land to pass to any child or children surviving them, “share and share alike in fee simple.” If there are no children, then the land should go to an Indianapolis hospital.

Eva Sleeper died in 1933, survived by Margaret and Joseph W. McConnell. They jointly inherited the second life estate. Joseph W. McConnell died in 1989, survived by Joseph McConnell and Julia McConnell Tarr. Julia McConnell Tarr died in 2007 and was survived by John and Karen LeFebre, referred to in the court opinion as the grandchildren. Margret McConnell died in January 2011 and was survived by adopted daughter Moncia Pereira and biological son William Pereira.

Joseph McConnell and William Pereira filed a complaint to quiet title naming Monica Pereira and the grandchildren. Tarr’s estate moved to intervene. The trial court entered summary judgment, ruling the grandchildren could collectively receive a one-third share in the acreage based on the construction of the will as “contemplat[ing] a generation skipping vesting process so that the death of either Margaret I. Pereira (McConnell) or Joseph W. McConnell establishes the class to which that ancestor’s interest passes and thus closes the class by the ancestor’s death and that both ancestors need not die before the class is determined.”  

Joseph McConnell and William Pereira, referred to as the children in the opinion, appealed. They argued that the will requires that any child of the McConnell siblings must survive both the siblings in order to receive a share and because Tarr didn’t survive her aunt, the grandchildren have no claim to acreage. The grandchildren argued the trial court properly construed the will to provide that Tarr became a vested member of the remainder class at her birth, or at the latest, when her father died.

The COA cited Alsman v. Walters, 184 Ind. 565, 106 N.E. 879 (1914), and Coquillard v. Coquillard, 62 Ind. App., 113 N.E. 474 (1916), in affirming the trial court.

“… we likewise conclude that the devise in fee simple resulted in an immediate gift, with an intervening life estate. The intended class, the McConnell siblings’ children, was identified and had no such child been born, the alternative beneficiary was Methodist Hospital of Indianapolis,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote. “However, the McConnell siblings were not childless. Vesting occurred when the first child in the class was born; however, the class was open and the interest of the first child was subject to diminution of shares to let in others born during the life tenancy. When Julia McConnell Tarr was born, she was a class member. The trial court properly found that she had a vested interest, not contingent upon outliving the last surviving life tenant.”

 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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