Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Nos. 09 P 7737 and 10 CH 46854, consolidated Honorable James G. Riley, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Connors
JUSTICE CONNORS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Harris and Justice Quinn concur in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Plaintiffs filed a complaint in the chancery division against defendant Khristian Rao, among others, for intentional interference with an inheritance expectancy and breach of fiduciary duty in a matter involving a testamentary trust. The case was then transferred to the probate division and consolidated with a pending action involving the estate of the decedent, Benjamin Luccio. Rao moved to dismiss the claims against her as time-barred under section 8-1(f) of the Probate Act of 1975 (Act) (755 ILCS 5/8-1(f) (West 2008)). The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. After also denying Rao's motion to reconsider, the court certified the following question for interlocutory appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010):
"Does the six[-]month limitations period of 755 ILCS 5/8-1(f) for bringing a contest to the validity of a trust that receives a legacy from a will admitted to probate apply to a tort action, including an action for [i]ntentional [i]nterference with an [i]nheritance [e]xpectancy where, unlike a will that has been admitted to probate, the trust instrument and amendments thereto are not publicly filed or otherwise made available to tort claimants who were to have received a benefit from a prior version of the trust or an amendment thereto?"
On May 25, 2012, a different division of this court allowed the interlocutory appeal. For the reasons that follow, we answer the certified question in the negative, with qualification.
¶ 3 The following facts were taken from plaintiffs' first amended complaint. On January 12, 2001, the decedent executed the "Benjamin Luccio, a/k/a Bernardino Luccio, Declaration of Trust Dated January 12, 2001" (Trust). The second amendment to the decedent's Trust, executed in 2007, gave the balance of a bank account to his nephew, specific monetary gifts to his niece and grandchildren, and the balance of the residuary trust estate to his brother.
¶ 4 In September of 2008, the decedent hired Rao to provide in-home medical care for his ailing wife, Maxine. Rao allegedly accompanied the decedent to his bank to retrieve some financial documents from a safety deposit box before visiting an attorney "in order to amend [the d]ecedent's estate plan." Rao then transported Maxine to her home in Arkansas against the advice of Maxine's doctors.
¶ 5 Over the next few months, the decedent began to exhibit signs of
dementia. Although the decedent had been paying Rao for Maxine's
medical care, he also allegedly transferred $130,000 to Rao in
December of 2008. In January of 2009, the decedent retained an
attorney recommended by Rao to amend his Trust. The third amendment
gave the decedent's house to his daughter, Tina Norton,*fn1
and the balance of his residuary trust estate to Rao. Two
weeks later, the decedent executed a fourth amendment to his Trust,
adding a monetary bequest to his nephew.
¶ 6 In March of 2009, the decedent was diagnosed with advanced dementia and required around-the-clock medical care. Around the same time, Maxine died. Rao then moved from Arkansas into the decedent's home to provide him with in-home medical care.
¶ 7 A couple of weeks later, the decedent executed a fifth amendment to his Trust. In it, he gave a monetary gift to a children's research hospital, he gave his house to his nephew, and the balance of the residuary trust estate was to be divided equally between Rao and three of the decedent's relatives. In June of 2009, the decedent executed a sixth amendment to his Trust, which gave a monetary gift to the hospital and the balance of the residuary trust estate to Rao.
¶ 8 Shortly thereafter, Rao moved the decedent to her home in Arkansas without telling his family. The decedent's family members located him a couple of months later in Arkansas. Rao allegedly "cut off communications between the [d]ecedent and his relatives, telling the [d]ecedent that they no longer cared for him." While in Rao's care, the decedent broke his hip and during the surgery to repair it, he suffered a heart attack. Norton tried to make arrangements to visit the decedent, but was told that he had left the hospital. Rao did not return any of Norton's phone calls. Finally, Rao informed Norton by email that the decedent died on November 5, 2009.
¶ 9 Rao later told Norton that the decedent's Trust was being administered by ATG Trust Company, which was represented by attorney James Kash. Norton contacted Kash to get copies of the will and trust documents, but he allegedly refused to provide her with those documents.
¶ 10 On October 28, 2010, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the chancery division against Rao, ATG, and the children's hospital. Counts I and II sought to set aside the Trust because the decedent lacked capacity to execute the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth amendments to the Trust and because the amendments were procured through undue influence. Counts III and IV were directed at Rao, alleging that she intentionally interfered with plaintiffs' inheritance expectancy when she induced the decedent to amend the Trust and that she ...