Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Clermont
REBECCA C. CHAMBERS, Appellee,
DAVID C. BOCKMAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF JOSEPH R. FELTER, et al., Appellants.
FROM CLERMONT COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS PROBATE DIVISION
Case No. 18CV00292
Law Firm LLC, Isaac T. Heintz, Casey A. Taylor, for appellee.
Aronoff, Rosen & Hunt, Kevin L. Swick, for appellants.
1} Appellant, David Bockman, appeals a decision of
the Clermont County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division,
granting summary judgment to appellee, Rebecca Chambers.
2} Joseph Feltner ("Decedent") and
Chambers were married in 2009. At the time of the marriage,
Chambers was living on Tener Road in Peebles, Ohio; Decedent
was living on State Route 131 in Miami Township, Ohio.
Decedent's property consisted of two lots: a 1.08-acre
tract with a house in which Decedent lived
("Decedent's Home"), and a separate, adjacent
55-acre tract where Decedent raised cattle and kept horses
("Decedent's Farm") (the two lots will be
referred collectively as the "Property"). The two
lots were separated by a fence to prevent the animals from
getting out. Following the marriage, the couple maintained
and continued to live in their respective residences to a
great extent. Decedent further purchased a tract of land on
Tener Road, adjacent to Chambers' home. The property was
used as rental property ("Rental Property").
3} Decedent died testate on June 27, 2017. At the
time of his death, he owned the Decedent's Home, the
Decedent's Farm, and the Rental Property. His will
nominated appellant, a long-time friend, as the executor of
his estate. Item II of the will devised the Rental Property
to Chambers. Item III of the will devised the residue of
Decedent's estate to appellant as follows:
All of the rest, residue and remainder of my property, real,
personal and/or mixed, of which I shall die seized, or to
which I may be entitled, or over which I shall possess any
power of appointment by Will at the time of my decease and
wheresoever situated, whether acquired before or after the
execution of this, my Will, to my friend, David C. Bockman,
absolutely and in fee simple.
Decedent's Home and Decedent's Farm were subsequently
appraised as a single property and valued at $378, 000.
4} On July 6, 2018, Chambers filed a complaint in
the probate court to purchase "the mansion house located
[on] State Route 131, * * * the parcel of land on which it is
situated, and the lot of land adjacent to the mansion house,
which is used in conjunction with it * * * for the price of
[$378.000]." That is, Chambers, as surviving spouse,
sought to purchase the Property as its appraised value
pursuant to R.C. 2106.16(A). The complaint named appellant as
a defendant, individually and as executor of the
5} Appellant filed an answer, arguing that Chambers
was not entitled to purchase the Property at its appraised
value. Specifically, appellant asserted that (1) the
Decedent's Home did not qualify as a mansion house
because Chambers never resided there, (2) Item III of the
Decedent's will specifically devised the Property,
including the Decedent's Home, to appellant, and (3) in
any event, Chambers was not entitled to purchase the
6} Chambers moved for summary judgment. Appellant
filed a memorandum in opposition. On March 6, 2019, the
probate court granted summary judgment in favor of Chambers.
The probate court found that Chambers was entitled to
purchase the Property at its appraised value because (1) it
was not necessary for Chambers, as surviving spouse, to
reside in the Decedent's Home for it to be considered the
"mansion house," (2) Item III of the Decedent's
will was simply a general bequest and devise of the Property
to appellant, not a specific one, and (3) Chambers was
entitled to purchase both the Decedent's Home and the
adjacent Decedent's Farm under R.C. 2106.16.
7} Appellant now appeals, raising three assignments
8} An appellate court reviews a trial court's
decision on a motion for summary judgment de novo,
independently, and without deference to the decision of the
trial court. Flagstar Bank, FSB v. Sellers, 12th
Dist. Butler No. CA2009-11 -287, 2010-Ohio-3951, ¶ 7.
Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue of
material fact remaining for trial, the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and reasonable minds
can only come to a conclusion adverse to the nonmoving party,
construing the evidence most strongly in that party's
favor. See Civ.R. 56(C); Harless v. Willis Day
Warehousing Co., 54 Ohio St.2d 64 (1978).
9} Assignment of Error No. 1:
10} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE
SUBJECT REAL PROPERTY CONSTITUTED A MANSION HOUSE UNDER R.C.
11} Appellant argues the probate court erred in
finding that the Decedent's Home was a mansion house,
whether or not Chambers resided there. Appellant asserts that
"a 'mansion house,' as referred to in R.C.
2106.16, is the joint residence of a decedent and
their spouse." Appellant asserts that because Chambers
never resided in the Decedent's Home, such was not a
mansion house under R.C. 2106.16 and Chambers was therefore
not entitled to purchase it. That is, appellant asserts that
a surviving spouse's residency in the "family
home" is a necessary element for the property to be
considered the mansion house under R.C. 2106.16(A). In
support of his argument, appellant cites Scobey v.
Fair,70 Ohio App. 51 (5th Dist.1942); In re Estate
of Johnson,14 Ohio App.3d 235 (3d Dist.1984); and a