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In re Estate of Crain

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Trumbull

May 8, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF: ESTATE OF RALPH A. CRAIN, DECEASED

         Civil Appeal from the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, Case No. 14 EST 0464.

         Judgment: Affirmed.

          David L Engler, (For Appellants).

          David A. Shepherd, Turner, May & Shepherd, (Special Administrator WWA).

          Douglas J. Neuman, Neuman Law Office, LLC, (For Appellees Bryan Crain and Frederick J. Crain)

          OPINION

          COLLEEN MARY OTOOLE, J.

         {¶1} 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.

         {¶2} 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 timely ensued.

         {¶3} 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.

         {¶4} 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 Bryan.

         {¶5} 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 children.

         {¶6} 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.

         {¶7} 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.

         {¶8} 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 ...


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