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. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

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  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.