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Judges interpret Probate Code statute in favor of bank

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Finding that a bank did not receive proper notice in order to file a claim against an estate, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of the estate of Samuel Tolley on the bank’s two claims.

Attorney James Berkshire notified by phone First Merchants Bank on Dec. 17, 2010, that Samuel Tolley died Nov. 17, that he was the attorney for the personal representatives of Tolley’s estate and had filed pleadings and other documents to open administration of the estate, and that proceedings were filed in Miami Superior Court II. First Merchants faxed to Berkshire a document that detailed Tolley’s customer information with a note that he had died in November.

Notice of administration was published Dec. 31, 2010, and Jan. 7, 2011, in the Peru Tribune, but First Merchants never received written notice from the estate. The bank filed two claims against the estate on July 26, 2011. Both parties filed for summary judgment. The estate argued the bank’s claims were untimely as a matter of law; the bank argued they were timely.

In granting summary judgment for the estate, the trial judge noted that First Merchants had actual knowledge of Tolley’s death and there’s no reason for the estate to serve the bank with actual written notice. The court found the bank’s claims untimely.

On appeal, the bank argued that Indiana Code 29-1-7-7(d) requires actual receipt of the notice, like by mail, and that the statute strongly implies the notice must be given in writing. Actual written notice is the bare minimum Due Process requires. The appellate judges agreed.

“Even though First Merchants had actual notice of the decedent’s death, the phone call from the attorney for the personal representatives did not meet the requirement of informing First Merchants of the time period for filing a claim.” Judge Elaine Brown wrote. “Based upon the designated evidence, we cannot say that First Merchants received proper notice. Accordingly, First Merchants’ claims filed on July 26, 2011 which occurred within nine months of Samuel’s death were timely filed.”

The case, In the Matter of the Estate of Samuel L. Tolley, Deceased; First Merchants Bank, N.A. v. Duane Earl Tolley, and Betty June Tolley, 52A02-1208-EU-671, is remanded for further proceedings.  

 

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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