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In re Estate of Hudson

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Preble

June 25, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF:MELISSA ANNE HUDSON

          APPEAL FROM PREBLE COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS PROBATE DIVISION Case Nos. 20171143 and 20171144

          CiceroAdams, LLC, Anthony R. Cicero, for appellants, Addyson House and Paige House

          Pickrel, Schaeffer and Ebeling, L.P.A., James W. Kelleher, Eli Sperry, for appellee, Beverly Dalton, co-Administrator of the Estate of Emerie Hudson and Administrator of the Estate of Melissa Hudson

          Brannon & Associates, David D. Brannon, and Wright and Schulte, Michael L. Wright, for intervenor, Denise Hudson, Co-Administrator of the Estate of Emerie Hudson

          Jaqcob A. Kovach, court-appointed guardian ad litem

          OPINION

          PIPER, J.

         {¶ 1} Appellants, Paige and Addyson House, appeal a decision of the Preble County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, denying their motion to vacate the appointment of fiduciaries.[1]

         {¶ 2} Melissa Hudson ("Melissa") had a relationship with William House that produced the two appellants, Paige and Addyson House. Melissa later separated from House, married Schon Hudson, and had a daughter with him named Emerie. Melissa, Schon, and Emerie were tragically killed in a traffic accident. Addyson and Paige were not involved in the accident, and survived their mother. Both girls are minors and in the custody and care of their father, House.

         {¶ 3} Melissa's mother, Beverly Dalton ("Beverly"), filed a motion with the probate court to be named administrator of the estates of Melissa and Emerie. Schon's mother, Denise Hudson ("Denise") and Beverly later agreed to be co-administrators of Emerie's estate. The probate court then issued letters of authority naming Beverly administrator of Melissa's estate and co-administrator of Emerie's estate and naming Denise co-administrator of Emerie's estate.

         {¶ 4} House, as guardian of Addyson and Paige, hired an attorney to represent the girls' interests as to the estates of Melissa and Emerie. Addyson and Paige's counsel filed a motion to vacate the appointment of Beverly and Denise as fiduciaries because the girls never received notice "for the purpose of ascertaining whether they desire to take or renounce administration." The probate court scheduled a hearing on the matter, but no formal hearing occurred. Instead, the parties discussed the issue in chambers, and the probate court permitted the parties to brief the issue as being a matter of law.

         {¶ 5} The probate court later issued a decision denying the girls' motion to vacate. In so finding, the probate court determined first that the girls were precluded from administering the estates because they are minors. The probate court also found that Addyson and Paige received notice of the appointment of Beverly and Denise as administrators of Melissa's and Emerie's estates. Further, the probate court determined that the girls' interests were protected because Beverly named both girls in paperwork filed in the estate as next of kin to Melissa and Emerie. The girls now appeal that decision to this court.

         {¶ 6} Beverly and Denise filed separate appellees' briefs in which they assert that the probate court's decision was proper. Beverly also filed a motion to dismiss the appeal for lack of a final appealable order and lack of standing, while Denise raised some of the same arguments in her brief.

         {¶ 7} We will address Addyson and Paige's assignment of error after addressing Beverly's and Denise's arguments that the appeal should be dismissed.[2]

         I. Final Appealable Order

         {¶ 8} Ohio's appellate districts are split as to whether a decision on a motion to vacate the appointment of an estate administrator constitutes a final appealable order. The districts that find a lack of a final appealable order, such as the Ninth District Court of Appeals, find that such decisions are not special proceedings as contemplated by R.C. 2505.02, regardless of the reason an appellant moves to vacate an appointment. In re Estate of Wilma Griffa, 9th Dist. Summit No. 25987, 2012-Ohio-904. In Griffa, the appellant filed a motion to dismiss an application of appointment and argued that he did not receive ...


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