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In re Guardianship of Santrucek

October 2, 2008

IN RE GUARDIANSHIP OF SANTRUCEK.


APPEAL from the Court of Appeals for Licking County, No. 06CA130, 2007-Ohio-3427.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

A person who has not filed an application to be appointed guardian, or who otherwise has not been made a party to the guardianship proceedings, has no standing to appeal.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lanzinger, J.

R.C. Chapter 2111 - A person who did not file an application to be appointed guardian and who was not otherwise made a party to the guardianship proceeding has no standing to appeal the probate court's ruling.

Submitted May 20, 2008

{¶1} In this case involving a guardianship pursuant to R.C. Chapter 2111, we are asked to determine whether a person who has not filed an application to be appointed guardian, or who otherwise has not been made a party to the guardianship proceedings, has standing to appeal. We hold that she does not.

Case History

{¶2} Bessie Santrucek resided in Elsie, Michigan, most of her life. She has two daughters: appellee, Victoria Wellington, an Ohio resident, and appellant, Jennie Hull, an Arizona resident. In 2005, appellee visited her mother in Michigan and became concerned about her behavior. She noticed that her mother was very forgetful and had trouble keeping her financial papers in order. Because of these concerns, in April 2006, appellee moved her mother, then 96 years old, to the Alterra Sterling House, an assisted-living facility in Newark, Ohio. After this move, appellee filed an application in the Licking County Court of Common Pleas to be named guardian of her mother's person.*fn1 Later she also filed a motion to be named guardian of her mother's estate and requested that appellant, her sister, Jennie, be kept informed of the proceedings.

{¶3} When appellant heard of the legal action, she filed a prehearing motion challenging the court's subject-matter jurisdiction, arguing that her mother's move to Ohio was involuntary. The trial court ruled that jurisdiction and venue were proper in Licking County. On appeal the Fifth District held that appellant lacked standing and dismissed her appeal.

{¶4} Appellant states that she did not apply to be named her mother's guardian in Ohio because the Ohio Revised Code does not permit Ohio nonresidents to be named guardians. See R.C. 2111.02 and 2109.21. She did however file a petition for appointment of a conservator in the probate court of Clinton County, Michigan. Under Michigan law, a conservator is responsible for management of a ward's property and other financial assets. See Mich.Comp.Laws Ann. 700.5401. In this respect, a conservator is similar to a guardian of an estate in Ohio.

Legal Analysis

{¶5} It is a fundamental rule that an appeal may generally be instituted only by "parties who are able to demonstrate a present interest in the subject matter of the litigation which has been prejudiced by the judgment of the lower court." Willoughby Hills v. C.C. Bar's Sahara, Inc. (1992), 64 Ohio St.3d 24, 26, 591 N.E.2d 1203. Because guardianship proceedings are not adversarial, but are in rem proceedings involving only the probate court and the ward, the requirements for standing to appeal are more elaborate. See In re Guardianship of Love (1969), 19 Ohio St.2d 111, 48 O.O.2d 107, 249 N.E.2d 794. To have standing in an appeal from a guardianship order, parties must either have an interest adverse to the ward's or have otherwise been aggrieved in some manner by the order. Id. at 115-116 (finding no standing for a guardian to appeal a determination that her ward had been restored to competency). Appellant was required to be a party to the litigation and to have had an interest that was prejudiced by the decision of the probate court before she could have standing to appeal in this case.

{¶6} The Fifth District Court of Appeals held that because appellant did not apply to be her mother's guardian, she did not possess the necessary interest in the guardianship proceedings to have standing to appeal. In so holding, the court of appeals relied in part on the Second District's decision in In re Guardianship of Lee, 2d Dist. No. 02CA3, 2002-Ohio-6194, which held that Lee's nephew, who had failed to file an application to be appointed guardian, did not have standing to challenge the appointment of someone else as guardian.

{ΒΆ7} Appellant attempts to distinguish her situation from that of the nephew in Lee by pointing out that as a nonresident of Ohio she was ineligible to apply to be guardian. Also, rather than challenging who had been appointed guardian, appellant sought to contest only the probate court's jurisdiction to appoint a guardian for her mother. Lee, however, stands for the proposition that a person claiming an interest in a ...


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