IN RE ESTATE OF Catherine A. HOLMS.
Tracy Batdorf, Respondent and Counterpetitioner-Appellant). (James Holms, Petitioner and Counterrespondent-Appellee,
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
from the Circuit Court of Lake County, No. 18-P-920; the Hon.
Michael J. Fusz, Judge, presiding.
Marshal P. Morris, of Marshal P. Morris, LLC, of Buffalo
Grove, for appellant.
E. Finn Vinson and Amy Lynn Lonergan, of Finn & Finn,
Ltd., of Waukegan, for appellee.
Catherine Holms, the decedent, entered a property settlement
agreement (PSA) as part of a legal separation from the
petitioner, her surviving husband James Holms. Upon her
death, James filed a petition for probate of her estate,
letters of administration, and an affidavit of heirship
listing himself as a spouse and heir. The respondent, Tracy
Batdorf, the decedent's daughter, filed a counterpetition
arguing that, pursuant to the PSA, James was not an heir of
the decedent's estate. Following a hearing, the trial
court found that James was a spouse and heir of the
decedent's estate. Tracy appeals from that order. We
reverse and remand for additional proceedings.
¶ 3 The
decedent and James were married on January 17, 2014. No
children were adopted or born to the decedent and James
during the marriage. The decedent had two children from a
prior marriage, Tracy and Scott Batdorf.
¶ 4 On
January 20, 2017, a judgment for legal separation was
entered. At that time, the decedent was 61 years old and
suffered from a debilitating medical condition. James was 62
years of age and still employed. The judgment incorporated a
PSA. The judgment stated that (1) the PSA was "final and
non-modifiable," (2) the parties would carry out the
terms and conditions
of the PSA, and (3) the parties would "establish of
record the sole and separate ownership of the property of
said parties in the manner therein agreed and provided."
¶ 5 The
PSA stated that the parties made the PSA "in light of
the facts that are stated below," which included
paragraphs A through P. Paragraph H stated as follows:
"H. Without any collusion as to said proceeding, the
parties hereto consider it to be in their best interests to
settle between themselves the issues arising out of said
litigation including, but not limited to, maintenance, the
allocation of marital property, debts, attorney's fees,
and to forever, finally and fully settle and adjust between
themselves the other rights growing out of the marital or any
other relationship now or previously existing between them
and to fully and finally settle any and all rights of every
kind, nature and the other, including all rights and claims
in and to any property of the other, of every kind, nature
and description, whether real, personal, marital,
non-marital, or mixed, now owned or which may hereafter be
acquired by either of them."
¶ 6 The
PSA also provided that the parties were waiving maintenance
as to each other and that the decedent's right to receive
maintenance was "satisfied by the cash settlement as set
forth in Article VII" of the PSA. Article VII provided
that James was to pay the decedent a lump sum of $180,000 for
settlement of the decedent's interest in the marital home
and her waiver of maintenance. Pursuant to the PSA, the
decedent was to quitclaim to James her interest in the
marital home, which would then become James's "sole
and exclusive property." The PSA provided that the
parties received their own bank accounts and vehicles as
their sole and exclusive property and were responsible for
their own debts and liabilities.
¶ 7 The
final provision of the PSA included a release of claims, as
"11.1 Release of Claims. The parties mutually release
and forever discharge each other from all actions, suits,
debts, claims, and obligations, including claims against each
other's property, with regard to any matter that has
occurred prior to the date of the ...