Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Trumbull
IN THE MATTER OF: ESTATE OF RALPH A. CRAIN, DECEASED
Appeal from the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas,
Probate Division, Case No. 14 EST 0464.
L Engler, (For Appellants).
A. Shepherd, Turner, May & Shepherd, (Special
Douglas J. Neuman, Neuman Law Office, LLC, (For Appellees
Bryan Crain and Frederick J. Crain)
COLLEEN MARY OTOOLE, J.
Thomas Crain, Jill Sferra, Marcia McNelis and Debra Pirock
(collectively, "exceptors"), appeal from the
judgment of the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas,
Probate Division, dismissing their exceptions to the amended
inventory and appraisal filed in their late father, Ralph
Crain's estate. Principally, they allege some $760, 000
in cash is missing from the estate. Finding they failed to
carry their burden of proof, we affirm.
Ralph Crain died June 9, 2014, aged 91. He was preceded in
death by his wife, Margaret, aged 89, in 2013. Attorney David
A. Sheperd was appointed Special Administrator WWA for Ralph
Crain's estate. Mr. Shepherd filed an inventory and
appraisal October 15, 2014, and an amended inventory and
appraisal October 21, 2014. Exceptors filed their exceptions
to the amended inventory and appraisal November 10, 2014.
Hearing on the exceptions went forward December 14, 2015, and
January 19, 2016. The trial court filed its judgment entry
dismissing the exceptions February 4, 2016, and this appeal
Ralph Crain operated a small truck farm, and sold the
resulting produce from a stand located on his property. When
younger, he had also worked for the government inspecting
agricultural land. Tax records indicate the Crains received a
gross income of $15, 000 to $20, 000 per year from the farm.
The Crains lived a frugal lifestyle. Ralph Crain was
extremely guarded concerning his financial affairs, which he
ran from a small office in the farmhouse, which he kept
locked. Others were rarely invited inside.
At the hearing on the exceptions, Thomas Crain testified that
his mother took him into the office in 2010, when Ralph Crain
was hospitalized. He testified there were six strongboxes in
the office, and that his mother opened one, showing him it
contained $130, 000 in carefully wrapped cash. The money was
divided into packets of six thousand dollars each, the
denominations being 20, 50, and 100 dollar bills. He
testified his mother stated all six boxes contained the same
amount of money, evidently as gifts to the six remaining
Crain children, exceptors and their brothers Frederick and
Marcia McNelis testified her father brought her into his
office in March 2011, and there were six strongboxes. She
testified her father opened one, showed her there was $130,
000 in cash inside, the bills being 50 and 100 dollar bills.
She testified her father stated to her that all six boxes
contained the same amount, and were intended for the Crain
Jill Sferra testified that in February 2011, she and her
parents took three of the six strong boxes from the office,
and counted the money contained therein, which was $130, 000
in each, in ten, 20 and 50 dollar bills. She
testified her father told her each box contained the same
amount, and were meant for the six Crain children.
Frederick Crain testified that in May 2013, his father
brought four strongboxes to him, which he locked in his gun
safe. After his father's death, he turned the boxes over
to Mr. Sheperd. Mr. Sheperd testified the four boxes he
received from Frederick Crain contained legal documents, and
$20, 379.80 in cash.
Most of the exceptors testified that Frederick and Bryan
Crain isolated their father in his later years. Frederick and
Bryan Crain testified their father wanted limited contact
with exceptors. Gary Foltz, Ralph Crain's ...