In re ESTATE OF CATHERINE A. HOLMS
Tracy Batdorf, Respondent and Counterpetitioner-Appellant. James Holms, Petitioner and Counterrespondent-Appellee,
from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 18-P-920 Honorable
Michael J. Fusz, Judge, Presiding.
Attorneys for Appellant: Marshal P. Morris, of Marshal P.
Morris, LLC, of Buffalo Grove, for appellant.
Attorneys for Appellee: Anna E. Finn Vinson and Amy Lynn
Lonergan, of Finn & Finn, Ltd., of Waukegan, for
JUSTICE SCHOSTOK delivered the judgment of the court.
Presiding Justice Birkett and Justice Burke concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 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
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 follows:
"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 ...