APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon.
ROBERT E. HUNT, Judge, presiding.
MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE STOUDER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This is an appeal from an order of the Circuit Court of Peoria County approving the final report of Appellee, South Side Trust & Savings Bank as Executor of the estate of Elizabeth Sutliff. Approval of the report was opposed by South Side Trust & Savings Bank as Executor of the estate of Laura McMaster, by William McMaster, sole beneficiary of the estate of Laura McMaster and by the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children, the residuary beneficiary of the estate of Elizabeth Sutliff. Both South Side Trust & Savings Bank as executor of Laura McMaster's estate and William McMaster individually have appealed from the order of the Circuit Court while South Side Trust as executor of Elizabeth Sutliff's estate and the Shriners Hospital as appellees have filed briefs supporting the action of the trial court.
Warren Sutliff died testate on July 14, 1939. His widow, Elizabeth Sutliff, was his only heir at law. He also left surviving, a niece, Laura Sutliff, who was acknowledged for Inheritance Tax purposes as his daughter. His Will devised his entire estate to his wife, Elizabeth, "to have, hold and enjoy during her natural life, and to be used by her and disposed of during her natural life precisely the same as I might do were I living, * * * to use so much of the income and principal thereof as she may desire, with remainder over, of any of the said estate undisposed of by my said wife, Elizabeth F. Sutliff, at the time of her death, to my niece, Laura Jeanette Sutliff, in fee simple, to have and to hold the same forever." The Will designated and the estate was administered by co-executors Elizabeth Sutliff and John Olson. The estate was subsequently closed, the executors discharged, and no further administration was ever entered upon.
Laura Sutliff married the appellant, William McMaster in December of 1954 and then died on January 13, 1955. She devised her entire estate to her husband, William McMaster. The South Side Trust & Savings Bank of Peoria was appointed and served as executor of her estate. The administration was completed, the estate closed, and the executor discharged January 13, 1956. The inventory filed therein disclosed no interest in any estate which had been the property of Warren Sutliff.
Elizabeth Sutliff, the testator herein, died December 13, 1966. In her Will Elizabeth Sutliff made certain specific bequests, created a trust for the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children and designated South Side Trust & Savings Bank as executor. The bank was duly appointed executor and undertook the administration of the estate pursuant to the terms of her Will.
After Elizabeth Sutliff's death William McMaster learned of the provision of Warren Sutliff's Will and thereupon instituted proceedings in Sangamon County to have South Side Trust & Savings Bank reinstated as executor of Laura McMaster's estate. The Circuit Court of Sangamon County which had jurisdiction of the administration of the estate originally, reinstated the executor over its objections, such reinstatement was affirmed after appeal to the Appellate Court for the Fourth District. Thereupon the bank as the executor of Laura's estate filed a supplemental inventory describing assets claimed under Warren Sutliff's Will in the possession of Elizabeth's executor.
As disclosed by the inventory of assets in the Warren Sutliff estate and the inheritance tax return based thereon so far as is material to this appeal, Warren Sutliff's estate consisted of three categories of property. The first category consisted of shares of stock in the South Side Trust & Savings Bank of Peoria, The First National Bank of Peoria and Peoria Malleable Castings Company. The second category consisted of an Oklahoma oil lease and the third category consisted of miscellaneous cash, stocks and bonds and real estate. All of the aforementioned property was turned over to Elizabeth after the administration of Warren's estate was completed.
With respect to the first category of property Elizabeth Sutliff executed an inted vivos trust agreement by the terms of which the shares of stock were transferred to the South Side Trust & Savings Bank as trustee for the benefit of the Shriners Hospital. In a collateral action William McMaster sought to replevin the shares of stock so transferred in trust and the hearing thereon was consolidated with the case which is the subject of this appeal. In the collateral replevin case the trial court decided in favor of McMaster holding that he was entitled to such shares and the judgment of the court in such case was not appealed and has become final.
With respect to the Oklahoma oil lease, the bank deemed it to be an asset of Elizabeth's estate bequeathed to the bank as trustee for the Shriners Hospital. In this action the trial court held that McMaster's was entitled to the Oklahoma lease and vacated the transfer in trust. The propriety of this determination is not questioned on this appeal.
It is the third category of property which is the subject of this appeal and about which more will be said later.
In December, 1970, the South Side Trust & Savings Bank pursuant to its petition was granted leave to resign as the executor of the Elizabeth Sutliff estate contingent upon the approval of its activities. The bank had inventoried all of the property in Elizabeth Sutliff's possession at the time of her death as belonging to her estate and the final report consistent with the inventory continued such claim.
The South Side Bank as executor of Laura's estate and William McMaster each filed pleadings in opposition to the final report.
In opposing the executor's final report in Elizabeth's estate the bank as executor of Laura's estate and McMaster adopted substantially the same point of view. It was their theory that some of the property described in the final report as beloning to Elizabeth's estate was property in which Elizabeth had only a life estate, the remainder interest therein being owned by Laura under the terms of Warren's Will. Accordingly the executor of Laura's estate or her beneficiary was entitled to such property. The property claimed was the Oklahoma oil lease and the proceeds of the third category of property included in Warren's estate which was turned over to Elizabeth.
After this dispute arose South Side Trust employed an independent accountant to make an audit of Elizabeth Sutliff's financial affairs from the date of Warren's death in 1939 to her death in 1966. The audit which sought to reconstruct Elizabeth's financial affairs from the financial information available was the principal item of evidence introduced at the hearings on this dispute. The accountant preparing the exhibit offered some explanatory ...