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Defendants in will contest must timely answer

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In an issue of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals has held that a will contest is a civil action and a defendant in this type of action is required to file an answer or plead to a complaint as provided by the state’s trial rules.

Siblings Rod and Marshall Avery appealed the default judgment against them in a will contest initiated by their sister Trina Avery. Trina served the brothers with summonses and copies of the complaint with Trial Rule 4. Neither brother appeared, answered, or pleaded in the will contest, and Trina filed a motion for default judgment. The brothers filed a motion to dismiss, claiming they didn’t have to file an answer. The trial court entered default judgment against them.

In Rod L. Avery, et al. v. Trina R. Avery, No. 49A05-1004-PL-320, the appellate court had to decide whether interested parties to a will contest are required to file an answer to the complaint. The Probate Code is silent on this issue, but the judges looked to Robinson v. Estate of Hardin, 587 N.E.2d 683, 685 (Ind. 1992), which held that Trial Rules 4 through 4.16 are applicable to will contests as well as Trial Rule 7(A).

“Again, a will contest is separate from the administration of an estate, and the executor and ‘all other persons beneficially interested in the will’ are made defendants in a will contest. See I.C. § 29-1-7-17,” wrote Judge Edward Najam. “Accordingly, we hold that, as with any civil complaint, a defendant in a will contest is required to file an answer or otherwise plead within the time provided under Trial Rule 6.”

The judges declined to hold that Indiana Code Section 29-1-1-10 applies to probate proceedings related to will contests. That section applies to proceedings related to the administration of a decedent’s estate, wrote Judge Najam.
 

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  1. Joseph Buser, Montgomery County Chief Prosecutor, has been involved in both representing the State of Indiana as Prosecutor while filing as Representing Attorney on behalf of himself and the State of Indiana in Civil Proceedings for seized cash and merchandise using a Verified Complaint For Forfeiture of Motor Vehicle, Us Currency And Reimbursement Of Costs, as is evident in Montgomery County Circuit Court Case Number 54C01-1401-MI-000018, CCS below, seen before Judge Harry Siamas, and filed on 01/13/2014. Sheriff Mark Castille is also named. All three defendants named by summons have prior convictions under Mr. Buser, which as the Indiana Supreme Court, in the opinion of The Matter of Mark R. McKinney, No. 18S00-0905-DI-220, stated that McKinney created a conflict of interest by simultaneously prosecuting drug offender cases while pocketing assets seized from defendants in those cases. All moneys that come from forfeitures MUST go to the COMMON SCHOOL FUND.

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  4. Oh, and you fail to mention that you deprived the father of far FAR more time than he ever did you, even requiring officers to escort the children back into his care. Please, can you see that you had a huge part in "starting the war?" Patricia, i can't understand how painfully heartbreak ithis ordeal must have been for you. I read the appellate case and was surprised to see both sides of the story because your actions were harmful to your child; more so than the fathers. The evidence wasn't re weighed. It was properly reviewed for abuse of discretion as the trial court didn't consider whether a change of circumstance occurred or follow and define the statutes that led to their decision. Allowing a child to call a boyfriend "daddy" and the father by his first name is unacceptable. The first time custody was reversed to father was for very good reason. Self reflection in how you ultimately lost primary custody is the only way you will be able heal and move forward. Forgiveness of yourself comes after recognition and I truly hope you can get past the hurt and pain to allow your child the stability and care you recognized yourself that the father provides.

  5. Patricia, i can't understand how painfully heartbreak ithis ordeal must have been for you. I read the appellate case and was surprised to see both sides of the story because your actions were harmful to your child; more so than the fathers. The evidence wasn't re weighed. It was properly reviewed for abuse of discretion as the trial court didn't consider whether a change of circumstance occurred or follow and define the statutes that led to their decision. Allowing a child to call a boyfriend "daddy" and the father by his first name is unacceptable. The first time custody was reversed to father was for very good reason. Self reflection in how you ultimately lost primary custody is the only way you will be able heal and move forward. Forgiveness of yourself comes after recognition and I truly hope you can get past the hurt and pain to allow your child the stability and care you recognized yourself that the father provides.

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