In re: Estate of Barbara Lacey, Friendship Village of Columbus, Inc., Appellant.
from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Probate
Division No. 587015.
Connell, Vollmar & Armstrong, LLC, Adam C. Armstrong, and
Tara F. Taylor, for appellant.
1} This matter relates to potential application of a
statutory subsection that has not been assessed by the
probate court in this case to this point. In explaining why
we return the case to the probate court so that it may engage
in that analysis regarding the applicability and import under
these circumstances of the statutory language invoked, we
begin with a brief procedural overview.
2} The late Barbara Lacey seems to have lived the
last period of her life at a nursing home called Friendship
Village. Three weeks after her death, and then twice
subsequently, Friendship Village billed Kelly Paternoster,
who was the executor designated in Ms. Lacey's will and
who is the residual beneficiary of her estate, for the
decedent's nursing home debt (in three different stated
amounts, reduced over time from a claim of $35, 604.96 to a
final figure of $19, 585.09, apparently to subtract amounts
including charges for days that came after Ms. Lacey was no
longer alive). Friendship Village received no response from
3} Some three and a half months after its last
letter to Ms. Paternoster, and seeking then to pursue a claim
against the estate, Friendship Village filed a motion for
relief from judgment under Civil Rule 60(B) asking the
probate court to vacate orders that had relieved the estate
from administration. The probate court (while apparently
accepting at face value the correspondence proffered by
Friendship Village, even though it may not have been
presented in evidentiary form) overruled the motion, finding
that Friendship Village had failed to present its claim to an
executor or administrator within six months of the
decedent's death as the court found R.C. 2117.06(B) to
require. Friendship Village appeals, arguing that the probate
court failed to analyze its request under a particular
statutory provision that Friendship Village had emphasized to
the probate court in challenging its magistrate's
recommendation that the Civ.R. 60(B) motion be denied.
4} Barbara Lacey died on August 7, 2017 at
Friendship Village. Sept. 6, 2017 Certificate of Death. She
gave one bequest of jewelry to a beneficiary and otherwise
gave "the rest, residue and remainder of all [her]
property of all kinds" to her will's named executor,
Ms. Paternoster. Sept. 6, 2017 Last Will and Testament of
Barbara Lacey, signed and sworn Mar. 29, 2012. In a letter
purportedly sent roughly two weeks after Ms. Lacey died, and
that got right to the point by stating, "I am writing to
you about the past due status of Barbara Lacey's resident
account," Friendship Village advised Ms. Paternoster
that "[w]e would greatly appreciate the full and
immediate payment of the balance due" (said then to be
$35, 604.96) and that unless payment or arrangements were
made within a week, "we will begin charging your account
a late fee of $35.00 per month on the overdue balance."
Ex. E, Feb. 23, 2018 Motion for Relief from Judgment (August
24, 2017 letter).
5} On September 6, 2017, Ms. Paternoster filed a
number of documents in the probate court, including an
application to probate Ms. Lacey's will under R.C.
2107.18 and an application to relieve the estate from
administration under R.C. 2113.03 based on the value of the
estate's assets not exceeding the statutory threshold of
$35, 000 under R.C. 2113.03(A)(1). Her filing titled
"Assets and Liabilities of Estate to be Relieved from
Administration" listed two insurance policies valued
together at $11, 000 as the only assets in Ms. Lacey's
estate. No debts were listed. Ms. Paternoster signed below a
section headed "CERTIFICATION," attesting that the
value of any listed assets was "correct, and to
applicant's knowledge the above list of decedent's
debts is correct." Sept. 6, 2017 Assets and Liabilities
of Estate to be Relieved from Administration at 2. The
probate court filed an Entry Relieving Estate from
Administration on September 6, 2017.
6} On September 12, 2017, Ms. Paternoster filed a
supplemental Assets and Liabilities of Estate to be Relieved
from Administration form that identified a $1, 000 policy
from the State Teachers Retirement System as an additional
asset. The same day, the probate court filed a Supplemental
Entry Relieving Estate from Administration.
7} Friendship Village continued to send its bill to
Ms. Paternoster. On September 13, 2017, it sent her a
statement seeking $28, 629.96 (adjusting for a previous
overcharge for "room and board" for the entirety of
August). Ex. E, Feb. 23, 2018 Motion for Relief. Then, on
November 6, 2017, a lawyer for Friendship Village sent Ms.
Paternoster as "Applicant and/or Beneficiary of the
Estate of Barbara Lacey" a "Dear Paternoster"
letter "regarding an unpaid account balance in the
amount of $19, 585.09 related to care and services Friendship
Village rendered to Barbara Lacey between October 2016 and
August 2017." Ex. F, Feb. 23, 2018 Mot. for
Relief. The self-described "estate claim
letter" said that it was to "serve as a formal
claim against the Estate of Barbara Lacey," and that it
was sent to Ms. Paternoster "both as Applicant to
Relieve the Estate from Administration and as a distributee
of Ms. Lacey's estate who may share liability for payment
of the claim." Id. It also advised Ms.
In your filings and representations to the Probate Court in
the above-referenced estate, you omitted the fact [that] Ms.
Lacey owned property at 2344 Taylor Ave., Columbus, Ohio
43211 at the time of her death and that said property has a
tax-appraised value of $36, 500. This real property should be
part of Ms. Lacey's estate, and should be liquidated to
my client's valid and timely claim. Your failure to
include this asset as part of the inventory of Ms.
Lacey's estate caused the ...