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In re Estate of Tait

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

February 23, 2017

In re ESTATE OF MARION YOUNG TAIT, a Disabled Person
v.
The Estate of Marion Young Tait and First Midwest Bank, Respondents-Appellees. Susan M. Zoleske, Former Guardian of the Person and Estate, Petitioner-Appellant,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois. Appeal No. 3-15-0834 Circuit No. 06-P-719 The Honorable J. Jeffrey Allen, Judge, presiding.

          McDADE JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

          Justices Carter and O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          McDADE JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Petitioner Susann M. Zoleske was appointed guardian of the estate of her mother, Marion Young Tait. The trial court removed petitioner as guardian. Petitioner appeals, arguing that the trial court erred when it removed her as guardian because it did not comply with section 23-3 of the Probate Act of 1975 (Probate Act) (755 ILCS 5/23-3 (West 2014)). We reverse and remand.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 In 2006, petitioner Susann M. Zoleske was appointed guardian of the person and estate of her mother, Marion Young Tait, a 95-year-old woman who had been adjudicated a disabled adult. The estate was valued at approximately $138, 000. The trial court waived the requirement of surety for bond, and the court-appointed guardian ad litem, Colleen Mary Wengler, raised no objection to the appointment of petitioner as guardian. Petitioner filed her first accounting report, which the trial court approved, in October 2009. At the time, the trial court waived the filing of any subsequent accountings.

         ¶ 4 Four years later, in response to a form request from the court for status, petitioner advised the court that Marion was still living and also filed a pro se petition requesting the transfer of Marion's real estate to Marion's daughter, Barbara Tait. Barbara was the primary caregiver and had lived in Marion's residence for 35 years. Petitioner also filed a pro se accounting report of Marion's estate. Wengler was again appointed guardian ad litem for Marion to review the petition and accounting report. The trial court ordered petitioner to provide Wengler with a copy of the accounting report.

         ¶ 5 At a hearing in December 2013, the accounting report was not ruled on, and the matter was continued to a later date. In January 2014, the court noted that petitioner had failed to comply with the trial court's order to provide Wengler with the accounting report. Also, the court noted that petitioner was required to file an annual report on Marion. The trial court ordered petitioner to provide the annual report and the accounting report at the next status hearing.

         ¶ 6 At a hearing in April 2014, petitioner presented Wengler with a copy of the accounting report but failed to file an annual report. The matter was continued to the next status hearing. Before the hearing, Wengler stated her objections to the accounting report but neither presented nor filed her objections in writing.

         ¶ 7 At a hearing in June 2014, petitioner filed an annual report, which the trial court approved, and a status hearing was set to review the accounting report. Also in June, counsel appeared for the first time on behalf of petitioner and requested additional time to file an amended accounting to respond to Wengler's objections. The matter was set for another status hearing.

         ¶ 8 At a hearing in November 2014, counsel filed the first amended accounting report, which the trial court did not approve. A second amended accounting report was filed in July 2015, and the court ordered petitioner to post a surety bond within 30 days. Petitioner never posted bond.

         ¶ 9 A third amended accounting report was filed in September 2015. On September 25, 2015, Wengler expressed her issues regarding the original and amended accounting reports and requested a "brief pretrial conference" to discuss her concerns. The following colloquy took place:

"THE COURT: All right. What is before us today?
[GUARDIAN AD LITEM]: We are before the Court today, Judge, for continued consideration of approval of the guardian's third amended accounting covering the periods of 2010 through 2015.
The third amended accounting has been filed with the Court. I have had an opportunity to review it. And I have had an opportunity to speak also with Miss Dollinger.
I do have concerns with regard to the accounting that has been provided as well as the second and third amended accountings that have been provided. So I am not in a position at this point to recommend in favor of the approval of those accountings.
There are a few issues. And I think perhaps the best way at this point to proceed would be to conduct a brief pretrial conference with [Y]our Honor so that you can be made aware of what the issues are and ...

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