APPEAL FROM THE LONOKE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO.PR-13-246. HONORABLE WILL FELAND, JUDGE.
Frances Morris Finley, for appellant.
Greg Crumpton, P.A., by: Greg Crumpton; and Wilson & Haubert, PLLC, by: Stefan K. McBride, for appellees.
WAYMOND M. BROWN, Judge. WYNNE, J., agrees. GRUBER, J., concurs.
WAYMOND M. BROWN, Judge
Appellant appeals from the circuit court's February 20, 2014 order appointing appellees as guardians of Louise Alma Shepherd a/k/a Louise Whaley. On appeal, appellant argues that the circuit court erred in (1) failing to obtain a professional evaluation prior to the court hearing for the appointment of a guardian; (2) allowing appellees to intervene in the guardianship of Ms. Whaley; and (3) failing to take into consideration the order of preference in appointing a guardian as set out in Arkansas Code Annotated section 28-65-204. We reverse.
Louise Whaley, the proposed ward, was 91 years old at the beginning of this case and had been living alone for some time in a house on property that she owned. Her estate, including three or four rental properties, was worth somewhere between $1,000,000 and $1,500,000. She had two children, both sons; both are deceased. Appellant is the daughter of one of Ms. Whaley's sons. In June or July of 2013, appellant, along with the rest of the family, became concerned about Ms. Whaley's health and her ability to take care of her basic needs.
On July 29, 2013, appellant petitioned the court for ex parte temporary guardianship and permanent guardianship over Ms. Whaley's person and estate. The petition was accompanied by an unverified letter from Dr. Thirumal Reddy Dubakka from the Longevity Center at St. Vincent Health System stating that it was his opinion that Ms. Whaley " requires assistance for all medical, business and financial matters." All family members required to have notice of appellant's petition--Ms. Whaley's other five grandchildren--were notified of her petition, and each filed a waiver of notice in which they consented to appellant being appointed as Ms. Whaley's permanent guardian. An order appointing appellant as the temporary guardian of Ms. Whaley's person and estate was entered on August 6, 2013.
On September 23, 2013, Pam and Don Beckham, neighbors of Ms. Whaley, claiming to be " close acquaintances" of Ms. Whaley, filed a motion for leave to intervene along with a motion for an expedited hearing on that motion.  The court granted the motion to intervene and noted that appellant and appellees had waived the ninety-day hearing requirement in an order entered on October 22, 2013.
On November 6, 2013, appellees filed a verified petition to be appointed as the permanent guardians of Ms. Whaley's person
and estate. On December 17, 2013, appellees moved for a mental evaluation of Ms. Whaley pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 35 and Arkansas Code Annotated section 28-65-212. The motion was granted in an order entered on January 10, 2014. However, no mental evaluation was performed. Instead, the parties had the attorney ad litem meet with Ms. Whaley and " ...