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In Re Estate of Dembufsky

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 14, 1980.

IN RE ESTATE OF HENRY DEMBUFSKY, DECEASED. — (LEILA DEMBUFSKY, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,

v.

ALYCE D. ZATZ, EX'R OF THE ESTATE OF HENRY DEMBUFSKY, DECEASED, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.)



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANK R. PETRONE, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE GOLDBERG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Alyce D. Zatz, executor of the estate of Henry Dembufsky, deceased, appeals from an order granting Leila Dembufsky (widow) a surviving spouse's award of $18,900. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110 1/2, par. 15-1.

The widow's petition alleged she is the surviving spouse and "[h]er condition in life is such that her reasonable needs and expectations to sustain herself total approximately $2100 per month." She further alleged there were no other parties dependent on the decedent for support during his lifetime and an award of $18,900 ($2100 per month for the 9-month statutory period) would neither burden the estate unduly nor deprive the legatees of anything to which they are entitled.

The executor filed an answer to the petition. She denied the widow's needs and expectations to sustain herself were $2100 per month and denied the sum requested would not unduly burden the estate. As a further defense, the executor alleged decedent's adjusted gross income for the year immediately preceding his death was $12,667; the exact value of the estate could not be determined at that time because ownership of certain assets by the estate was being contested by the widow; and the approximate value of the uncontested estate assets is $60,000. The executor averred an award of $18,900 would deprive other legatees of amounts to which they were entitled; and, therefore, the widow should be awarded the statutory minimum of $5000. In the alternative, the executor requested that the hearing on the widow's petition be postponed until after there had been a final determination as to which assets were owned by the estate.

At the hearing on the petition, the executor's counsel again asked the court to postpone the hearing until there was a final determination as to which assets belonged to the estate. The widow's counsel stated that if certain of those assets were later determined to belong to the widow, they would credit those items to the estate to offset the widow's award. The court proceeded with the hearing.

Upon direct examination by her counsel and by the trial court, the widow testified she had been married to decedent for 21 years. She itemized her monthly expenses which totaled $2175. However, no documentation of these expenses was offered in evidence. At the conclusion of her direct testimony, a discussion ensued between the trial court and both counsel as to the widow's intention to renounce decedent's will. After this discussion, the court awarded the widow $18,900. Immediately thereafter, the following exchange occurred:

"MR. SIEGEL [executor's counsel]: Judge, no cross examination, no chance to ask her about her records?

THE COURT: That is it. The lady's been married 17 years.

MRS. DEMBUFSKY: Twenty-one years.

THE COURT: The figure is in line with her expenses and what the statute provides for 9 months. You got it.

MRS. DEMBUFSKY: Thank you.

MR. SIEGEL: Judge, we ask for production of two documents at today's hearing. One was a lease, copy of a lease, and the other was a copy of her income tax returns for 1979. I would like to see that.

MR. JOHNSON [widow's counsel]: Your Honor —

THE COURT: I think it is in accordance with the statute, and with what you are entitled to, and what your expenses are. ...


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