Reversal: Court wrongly required $1.1M bond in estate spat

A trial court wrongly ordered an heir to an estate to post a bond of more than $1.1 million for a claim he submitted as he sought to block the sale of the family farm.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the bond order and remanded with instructions to order Charles R. Ferguson to post a bond of $60,000 – administrative costs to date – to stay the sale of the farm and for further proceedings.

Ferguson is one of two heirs to the estate of Lera V. Ferguson, who died intestate. His sister, Nancy Mosson, is the other heir and the estate’s personal representative. She disallowed Ferguson’s claim of more than $1 million for services he says he provided over Lera Ferguson’s lifetime, according to the record.

Charles Ferguson objected to the sale of the family farm, and Howard Circuit Court Special Judge David Grund ordered Ferguson post a bond of $1,133,833.71, which represented the amount of his claim plus some administrative costs, within 30 days to stay the sale of the farm.

Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the panel that Ferguson had a right to seek this interlocutory appeal under Appellate Rule 14(A), because the order required a payment of money.

“It strikes us as somewhat unjust that Charles should, in effect, be forced to post a bond to protect himself if he, understandably, does not wish to,” Bradford wrote. “… Ordering Charles to post a bond to cover his own claim does not protect him; if anything, it harms him by denying him the use of his money. We do not believe that this is what the General Assembly had in mind when drafting Indiana Code section 29-1-15-4. We conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in setting Charles’s bond.”  

The case is Charles R. Ferguson v. The Estate of Lera V. Ferguson, 34A02-1411-ES-793.

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