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In re Estate of Holms

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

December 23, 2019

In re ESTATE OF CATHERINE A. HOLMS
v.
Tracy Batdorf, Respondent and Counterpetitioner-Appellant. James Holms, Petitioner and Counterrespondent-Appellee,

          Appeal 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 appellee.

          JUSTICE SCHOSTOK delivered the judgment of the court. Presiding Justice Birkett and Justice Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          SCHOSTOK JUSTICE.

         ¶ 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.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 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 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 ...

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