THE ESTATE OF DIANE MENDELSON, Petitioner and Counterrespondent-Appellee,
MICHAEL MENDELSON, Respondent and Counterpetitioner-Appellant
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 11-P-919.
Honorable Michael J. Fusz, Judge, Presiding.
Maher, of Law Offices of James Maher, of Chicago, for
Goodman and Stacy M. Rhody, both of Paul B. Goodman &
Associates, of Northbrook, for appellee.
and Spence, Justices concurred in the judgment and opinion.
SCHOSTOK, PRESIDING JUSTICE.
[¶1] The instant controversy arises
primarily from a dispute as to whom the decedent, Diane
Mendelson, intended to inherit her Highland Park home. In
2005, she signed a deed that placed the home in joint tenancy
with her son Michael Mendelson. In 2006, she prepared a trust
that divided her estate (including the home) equally among
her four sons. In 2011, three months before she died, she
revoked the 2006 trust and created a new trust that
indicated, among other things, that Michael was to receive
the home via the 2005 joint tenancy deed. After the
decedent's death, the circuit court of Lake County
considered competing claims between Michael and his three
brothers as to their interests in the Highland Park home and
determined that the four brothers had equal interests in the
home. The trial court also rejected Michael's claim that
he was entitled to compensation for the care that he provided
to the decedent prior to her death.
[¶2] On September 9, 2015, this court
entered an opinion determining that the trial court properly
rejected Michael's claim for compensation but erred in
not awarding him a 100% interest in the Highland Park home.
This court held that the decedent conveyed a 100% interest in
the home to Michael via her 2011 trust. We therefore reversed
the trial court's decision, which found that Michael was
entitled to 25% of the Highland Park home. On October 14,
2015, the decedent's estate filed a petition for
rehearing. Upon considering that petition, as well as
Michael's response and the estate's reply, we now
determine that the decedent intended to convey to Michael an
interest in her home only via the 2005 joint tenancy deed,
not via the 2011 trust. As that deed was not valid, Michael
was in fact entitled only to 25% of the Highland Park home.
We therefore grant the petition for rehearing and now affirm
the trial court's decision.
[¶4] The decedent had four sons: Robert,
Michael, Ronald, and Daniel Mendelson.
She owned and lived at a home located at 1509 Arbor Avenue in
Highland Park. In 2004 or 2005, Michael, along with his
girlfriend and his two children, moved in with the decedent.
[¶5] On July 15, 2005, the decedent executed
a deed to her home, placing it in joint tenancy with herself
and Michael as the joint tenants (the 2005 deed). Neither the
decedent nor Michael recorded the deed during the
decedent's lifetime. Michael explained that the decedent
was a senior citizen who received a property tax benefit,
allowing her to defer payment of a substantial portion of
those taxes. Both Michael and the decedent were concerned
that if she recorded the deed she would lose that property
[¶6] On June 16, 2006, the decedent signed
estate planning documents prepared by attorney Larry Magill.
The documents included: (1) a last will and testament; (2)
the Diane Mendelson Living Trust, dated June 16, 2006 (the
2006 trust); (3) a Property Power of Attorney; (4) a Health
Care Power of Attorney; (5) a Living Will; and (6) a Deed in
Trust (the 2006 deed). The 2006 deed transferred the Highland
Park home from the decedent to the 2006 trust. The 2006 trust
provided that, after her death, her estate was to be divided
equally among her four sons. On September 18, 2006, the 2006
deed was recorded with the Lake County Recorder of Deeds.
Magill testified that the decedent never told him that she
had placed her home in joint tenancy with Michael. Rather,
she told him that Michael had been pressuring and threatening
her to sign some documents that she had not read and did not
understand. She also told him that she wanted to be even and
fair to her four sons and wanted to leave her property to her
sons in equal shares.
[¶7] In March 2011, the decedent refinanced
the mortgage on the Highland Park home through Fifth Third
Bank. In the refinancing settlement statement, she ...