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Estate of Mendelson v. Mendelson

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

March 8, 2016

THE ESTATE OF DIANE MENDELSON, Petitioner and Counterrespondent-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL MENDELSON, Respondent and Counterpetitioner-Appellant

Page 892

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 893

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 11-P-919. Honorable Michael J. Fusz, Judge, Presiding.

         James Maher, of Law Offices of James Maher, of Chicago, for appellant.

         Paul B. Goodman and Stacy M. Rhody, both of Paul B. Goodman & Associates, of Northbrook, for appellee.

         Zenoff and Spence, Justices concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

Page 894

          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.

         [¶3] BACKGROUND

          [¶4] The decedent had four sons: Robert, Michael, Ronald, and Daniel Mendelson.

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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 tax benefit.

          [¶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 ...


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