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In Re Estate of Rice

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 1, 1985.

IN RE ESTATE OF DANIEL F. RICE ET AL., DECEASED (CHARLES D. DONALDSON ET AL., EX'RS OF THE ESTATE OF AND TRUSTEES UNDER THE WILL OF DANIEL F. RICE, APPELLANTS,

v.

CONTINENTAL ILLINOIS NATIONAL BANK AND TRUST COMPANY OF CHICAGO, CO-EX'R OF ADA L. RICE ESTATE AND SUCCESSOR TRUSTEE OF TRUSTS UNDER THE WILL OF DANIEL F. RICE, ET AL., APPELLEES.)



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. John Teschner, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE REINHARD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Charles D. Donaldson, Victor A. Grossi, Walter L. Palka, and Philip A. Rashman, executors of the estate and trustees under the will of Daniel F. Rice, deceased, and hereinafter referred to as the executors, appeal from three orders of the trial court whereby, in an attempt to enforce a settlement agreement, the trial court ordered the executors to turn over the trust and remaining estate assets to the successor trustee, Continental Bank, reformed releases executed by Daniel F. Rice, Jr., and his wife, Mary L. Rice (hereinafter Rices, Jr.) to comport with the parties' apparent intent, dismissed the executors' petition seeking damages and fees from Continental Bank for alleged negligence in preparing release forms and in exchanging funds and documents with the Rices, Jr., and denied the executors' motion for reconsideration.

The executors' principal contentions on appeal are that (1) the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter the orders of August 4, September 8, and September 15, 1983; (2) the judicial reformation of the releases executed by the Rices, Jr., did not give the executors the benefit of their bargain; (3) the Rices, Jr., should have been compelled to execute and deliver appropriate releases and receipts; (4) the trial court erred by ordering the executors to turn over trust and estate assets before conditions precedent were met; (5) it was error to dismiss the executors' petition against Continental Bank for relief and damages, including corporate indemnification; and (6) the executors were denied due process of law by the trial court's actions and orders of August 4, September 8, and September 15.

Following the deaths of Daniel F. Rice in 1975 and Ada L. Rice in 1977, the various beneficiaries under their wills and executors of their estates commenced actions in Federal court and the courts of this State and sister States. As this is the fourth opinion issued by this court resulting from the protracted litigation ensuing from the probate of these estates, we refrain from reiterating the extensive history of this case, since it can be garnered from our prior decisions. See In re Estate of Rice (1982), 108 Ill. App.3d 751, 439 N.E.2d 1264; In re Estate of Rice (1981), 96 Ill. App.3d 1137, 421 N.E.2d 1034; and In re Estates of Rice (1979), 77 Ill. App.3d 641, 396 N.E.2d 298.

After the trial court's entry of settlement orders, reflecting the oral agreement of the parties, was affirmed by this court in In re Estate of Rice (1982), 108 Ill. App.3d 751, 439 N.E.2d 1264, the parties entered into another agreement, referred to as the February 28, 1983, agreement, which incorporated the earlier settlement orders and provided, inter alia, that the parties would dismiss appeals pending in the Illinois Supreme Court; that the Rice Foundation, Continental Bank, and Arthur Nolan, Jr., would file releases required under the earlier settlement orders; that the trust beneficiaries and the successor trustee would execute and deliver receipts to the executors; that the parties would execute and deliver general releases to the executors; and that certain trust beneficiaries, including the Rices, Jr., would execute and deliver an indemnification agreement to the executors.

Under the order subsequently entered by the trial court pursuant to the February 28 agreement, the executors were discharged from all duties, obligations, liabilities and responsibilities arising directly or indirectly from any act taken or omission to act by them or any of them during and concerning the administration, funding, and distribution of the trusts; the court accepted the resignation of the executors and appointed Continental Bank as successor trustee; the successor trustee was directed to indemnify and hold harmless, to the extent of the trust assets, the executors; title to trust assets was vested in the successor trustee; and the executors were ordered to immediately execute and deliver all instruments and do all acts necessary to perfect title of all assets of the trust in the successor trustee.

On April 7, 1983, the Illinois Supreme Court continued the motions to dismiss the consolidated appeals. It remanded the cause to the circuit court for consideration of the proposed settlement in its entirety, directing that court to file a report to the supreme court on or before May 16, 1983, of the final disposition of the proposed settlement, and retained jurisdiction of the pending appeals.

After further negotiations and hearings, a "global settlement" was reached by the parties on May 11, 1983. At a hearing held on that date, the executors asked what date was to be on the releases. Counsel for the Rices, Jr., Mr. John Davidson, answered, "Today's date, the 11th of May." The following colloquy was held:

"MR. OSSWALD [counsel for the executors]: We would assume, therefore, that those releases are being current dated through this date and we also assume, our executors have assumed that the releases referred to in these orders are being as of — through this date.

THE COURT: May 11th.

MR. JOHN DAVIDSON: That appears both on Page 1 in about the seventh line, and on Page 3 in the third line.

MR. HULL [counsel for the estate of Ada L. Rice]: It's the 11th day of May you want inserted?

MR. JOHN DAVIDSON: That's right."

The trial court entered the written agreed order on May 11, 1983, approved by all parties, which provided, inter alia, that the parties would move for the dismissal, with prejudice, of all pending appeals; that all parties to those appeals would execute and file a counterpart of the February 28 agreement provided that the undertakings and indemnities would not affect any trust in which the Rices, Jr., had an interest and would not require payment or repayment of any sums received or to be received by the Rices, Jr., under the wills of Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice; that the Rices, Jr., would forthwith deliver to Continental Bank an executed counterpart of the February 28 agreement, agreed orders to dismiss certain matters, mutual and general releases in the form attached, and an original counterpart of the attached agreement by which Continental Bank would terminate the trust established by the codicil of the will of Ada L. Rice and distribute $360,000 of the principal to the joint order of the Rices, Jr. and their counsel simultaneously with the Rices, Jr.'s delivery of the aforementioned documents; that all parties listed would execute and file mutual and general releases; and that to the extent there was any inconsistency between the February 28 agreement and that May 11, 1983, order, the May 11, 1983, order would govern and control. The trial court specifically retained jurisdiction over the parties and subject matter for the purpose of enforcing the order.

Continental Bank, the Rice Foundation, and the Rices, Jr., exchanged the documents and funds on May 16, 1983. On the following day, the trial court issued a letter, along with copies of orders entered, to the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, stating that the documents and funds were transferred and that all matters were resolved to everyone's satisfaction. However, it was later discovered that in the release documents the executors had been released from possible liability only through May 5, 1983, rather than through May 11, 1983. Also, the Rices, Jr.'s releases bore an incorrect attestation clause and the receipt executed by the Rices, Jr., carried a disclaimer of an agreement as to the accuracy of any ...


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