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In re Estate of Prunty

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

March 20, 2018

In re ESTATE OF ELOISE VIRGINIA PRUNTY, Deceased
v.
Kevin L. Thayer, Respondent-Appellant. Mary Burk and Pamela Miller, Petitioners-Appellees,

         Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 13P116 Honorable R.C. Bollinger, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices DeArmond and Turner concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          KNECHT JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 The Macon County circuit court granted a motion by petitioners, Mary Burk and Pamela Miller, to transfer this case to De Witt County pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 187(c)(1) (eff. Jan. 4, 2013) (intrastate transfer under the doctrine of forum non conveniens). Respondent, Kevin L. Thayer, appeals. We dismiss the appeal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 In 2008, Elizabeth O. Lynn died intestate in De Witt County. Her estate, which is still being probated in the De Witt County circuit court (In re Estate of Lynn, No. 08-P-25 (Cir. Ct. De Witt County)), includes 20 acres on Clinton Lake.

         ¶ 4 Lynn had a sister, Eloise Virginia Prunty, who survived her (but died five years later), and it is undisputed that, under the laws of descent and distribution (755 ILCS 5/2-1 (West 2008)), Prunty became entitled, upon Lynn's death, to inherit half the residue of Lynn's estate. ¶ 5 Although she survived Lynn, Prunty herself was in poor health, and at some point she was moved from her dilapidated house in Clinton, De Witt County, to Mt. Zion, Macon County, so she could live with a granddaughter, Kristen Hines, to whom she had given a healthcare and property power of attorney.

         ¶ 6 On December 8, 2013, Prunty died in Mt. Zion.

         ¶ 7 On May 8, 2014, in the Macon County circuit court, petitioners (two of Prunty's daughters) filed a petition for letters of administration, seeking to be appointed coadministrators of her estate.

         ¶ 8 On January 11, 2017, petitioners filed a "Motion To Transfer Probate, " requesting a transfer of this case to the De Witt County circuit court. Their motion-which did not cite Illinois Supreme Court Rule 187 (eff. Jan. 4, 2013)-notified the Macon County circuit court, apparently for the first time, of the Lynn case pending in De Witt County and being appealed by respondent (In re Estate of Lynn, 2017 IL App (4th) 160766-U, appeal denied, No. 122315 (Ill. Sept. 27, 2017)), the expected estate sale of Lynn's 20 acres on Clinton Lake, and the right of Prunty's estate to receive half the residue of Lynn's estate. Petitioners' argument for the proposed transfer was essentially twofold. First, Prunty had lived her entire life in Clinton except for "approximately one year before her deathbed, " when, because of declining health and a lack of funds, she moved in with Hines in Mt. Zion. Prunty nevertheless had "persisted that her residence was in De Witt County." Second, "[the De Witt County circuit court could] more efficiently supervise the administration of [Prunty's] estate as it [would] be determining the disposition of [Lynn's] estate[, ] which [had to] first be concluded and with one-half of the residue of that [e]state paid to the [l]egal [r]epresentative of [Prunty's estate]. Both cases could then track together."

         ¶ 9 Respondent filed an objection to the "Motion To Transfer Probate." He argued that, under section 5-1(a) of the Probate Act of 1975 (Probate Act) (755 ILCS 5/5-1(a) (West 2012)), the administration of an estate should be "[i]n the county where [the decedent] has a known place of residence" and, in Prunty's case, that county was Macon County, considering she resided in Mt. Zion at the time of her death.

         ¶ 10 In the docket entry for April 3, 2017, the Macon County circuit court ordered: "Petitioners to file an Amended Motion to Transfer based on Forum Non Conveniens along with supporting Affidavits by [April 18, 2017]. [Respondent] to file a response with any opposing affidavits by [May 3, 2017]."

         ¶ 11 On April 17, 2017, petitioners filed a "Forum Non Conveniens Motion To Transfer Cause of Action, " which, this time, cited Rule 187 and included a supporting affidavit by Miller. In addition to reiterating that Prunty had lived practically all her life in De Witt County and that the administration of her estate would be most efficiently supervised in the county where the bulk of her property was located, the motion observed that "a majority of *** those interested in [Prunty's] [e]state reside[d] in De Witt County, Illinois, especially [respondent, ] who [was] taking a primary position in this [p]robate."

         ¶ 12 On May 10, 2017, respondent filed his "Reply to Forum Non Conveniens Motion To Transfer Cause of Action Filed by Mary Burk and Pamela Miller by Attorney Curtis G. Quindry." This was a week beyond the court-imposed deadline for a response, and respondent had not requested an ...


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