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In re Guardianship of Spinnie

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

November 22, 2016

Patricia A. Gooch, Respondent-Appellant. Richard Ervin, Guardian of the Person and Estate of Agnes Spinnie, Petitioner-Appellee,

          Rule 23 Order Filed: October 25, 2016

          Motion to Publish Granted: November 22, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. No. 13-P-273 Honorable Christopher T. Kolker, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant Edward J. Kionka, Lesar Law Building

          Attorneys for Appellee Jayni A. Desai, Alana I. Mejias, Charles W. Courtney, Jr., Courtney, Clark & Mejias, P.C.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE SCHWARM delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Cates and Moore concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 The petitioner, Richard Ervin, the guardian of the person and estate of Agnes Spinnie, brought this action against the respondent, Patricia A. Gooch, among others, to recover assets that the petitioner alleged were improperly acquired from Agnes. After hearing evidence, the circuit court entered judgment in favor of the petitioner and against the respondent in the amount of $31, 733.19. For the following reasons, we reverse the circuit court's judgment.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On July 5, 2007, Agnes, who was born on January 13, 1922, executed an Illinois Statutory Short Form Power of Attorney for Property, appointing the respondent as attorney-in-fact. Agnes also executed a power of attorney for healthcare, naming the respondent as attorney-in-fact. At about the same time, Agnes received a substantial settlement in excess of $400, 000, as compensation for her deceased husband's work-related injury. Thereafter, Agnes gifted funds to her daughters, the respondent and Helen Odell; her grandchildren, Shelley Brown, Lisa Brown, and Barbara Davis; and her greatgrandchild, Morgan Brown, among others.

         ¶ 4 On May 29, 2013, the petitioner filed a petition for adjudication of disability and appointment of guardian for Agnes, along with a petition to terminate the respondent's agency under the power of attorney documents. On the same date, the court appointed a guardian ad litem for Agnes. On June 11, 2013, the guardian ad litem filed his report, revealing that his attempts to meet with Agnes "were frustrated by [her] anger towards [her son, the petitioner, ] for filing the" petition. Agnes informed the guardian that she had three children and that the respondent was the oldest. Agnes indicated to the guardian ad litem that guardianship was unnecessary and that she did not want the petitioner appointed as guardian. Agnes denied that she was financially exploited. On September 24, 2013, the circuit court appointed the petitioner as temporary guardian of Agnes's person and estate. On this date, the circuit court also revoked the respondent's agency pursuant to the power of attorney for property and the power of attorney for healthcare.

         ¶ 5 After an examination performed on October 20, 2013, Daniel J. Cuneo, Ph.D., submitted a report, which was later admitted into evidence, noting that Agnes was 91 years old at the time of the examination and that she was living at Charles Gardens, an independent living center in O'Fallon, Illinois. Dr. Cuneo opined that Agnes's emotional, mental, and psychological functions were impaired and that she required a guardian over her person and estate. Accordingly, on November 21, 2013, the circuit court found that Agnes was a disabled adult without capacity and appointed permanent guardianship of Agnes's person and estate to the petitioner.

         ¶ 6 On January 14, 2014, the petitioner filed an inventory of Agnes's real and personal property, valuing her mobile home at $21, 000; her checking account at $1, 600; and her monthly income at $2, 002.50. Thereafter, on February 4, 2014, and also on October 10, 2014, the petitioner filed petitions for citation against the respondent, Lisa, Shelley, and Barbara to produce estate assets or information to explain why approximately $358, 939 of Agnes's funds or property had not been produced. On February 25, 2015, citing the five-year limitations found in section 13-205 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/13-205 (West 2014)), the respondent filed a motion to strike and to limit the petitioner's recovery to assets transferred less than five years prior to the petition for recovery citation.

         ¶ 7 After notification that the petitioner had settled with Lisa and Barbara, the circuit court heard evidence in February 2015. The respondent testified that in 2007, she "did everything" for Agnes by taking her to the doctor, to church, and to the store. The respondent testified that she visited Agnes two or three times a week and called her almost every day. The respondent acknowledged that Agnes spent the $440, 000 settlement she received in 2007 in a short period of time. The respondent testified that Agnes gifted funds to Lisa, ...

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