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Spurling v. Estate of Reed

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

March 7, 2018

TRAVIS LANE SPURLING APPELLANT
v.
ESTATE OF ALLIE MARIE REED, DECEASED, AND BILL REED, AS THE EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF ALLIE MARIE REED APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 49PR-08-55] HONORABLE TED C. CAPEHEART, JUDGE

          Harrelson Law Firm, P.A., by: Steve Harrelson, for appellant.

          Jana Bradford, for appellee.

          LARRYD. VAUGHT, Judge

         In this probate matter, Travis Spurling appeals the orders entered by the Montgomery County Circuit Court on June 24, 2016, and April 25, 2017. Travis argues that the circuit court erred by (1) entering an order appointing an administrator on the same date the petition for appointment was filed without providing notice and a hearing to all interested parties; (2) closing the administration of the estate without requiring proof of publication; (3) allowing the executor to serve without bond; (4) closing the administration of the estate without the filing of an accounting; (5) closing the administration of the estate without distributing the assets of the decedent; and (6) closing the administration of the estate without following the wishes of the decedent's last will and testament. We affirm.

         Allie Marie Reed died on August 20, 2007. Following her death, on December 12, 2008, a petition for admission of will to probate and for appointment of executor was filed by four of Allie's children: Bernice Johnston, Sherleen Reed, Alidene Ragan, and Bill Reed. The petition alleged that Allie's surviving heirs included the petitioners and Velma Qualls, Allie's daughter, and Travis, Velma's son and Allie's grandson. The petition alleged that Allie had left a holographic will dated April 3, 2007, [1] but that the will did not nominate an executor. The petitioners nominated Bill as the executor.[2] The petition also listed the personal property of Allie's estate and stated that the property was located at Allie's home, which was being occupied by Travis.[3] The petition further alleged that Travis had refused to allow the petitioners to take possession of the personal property of the estate. The petition requested that the court enter an order authorizing Bill to take possession of the personal property and directing the sheriff to assist Bill in obtaining possession of the property.

         On the same day-December 12, 2008-the circuit court entered (1) an order admitting the will to probate and appointing an executor, and (2) an order listing the property of Allie's estate; finding that the property was located at Allie's home, which was occupied by Travis; and authorizing Bill and the sheriff to take possession of the property. The record reflects that on the following day, December 13, 2008, Bill, the sheriff, and others appeared at Allie's home where Travis was living to obtain possession of Allie's personal property.

         On January 15, 2009, Travis filed an affidavit to claim against Allie's estate. In the affidavit, he stated that Bill took certain property from Allie's home that belonged to Travis.[4]On the same day, Travis also filed a demand for notice of proceedings and for an inventory of the estate. He alleged, among other things, that Bill, eleven relatives, and two sheriff's deputies came to his house on December 13, 2008; spent six hours there; and removed and destroyed numerous items of his (Travis's) personal property that were not on the list attached to the petition to probate Allie's will that was provided to the court. In the demand, Travis further alleged that Allie's will did not waive bond, that Bill failed to notify the devisees of Allie's estate of his appointment, and that Bill failed to publish notice to creditors or take any action in his administrative capacity except to remove Travis's personal property from his home. Travis requested that the circuit court refuse to enter further orders without notice to him and without his opportunity to be heard, to require Bill to post bond as required by Arkansas law, to require Bill to publish notice to creditors, and to require Bill to file an inventory of the estate's assets.

         On October 22, 2009, Travis filed a petition for relief. Therein, he alleged that Bill had not filed an inventory of the estate, a publication and notice to creditors, an inventory of estate assets, or an accounting of the estate. In August 2010, the circuit court entered an order directing Bill to file an estate inventory no later than August 19, 2010.

         On October 1, 2010, Travis filed another petition for relief, alleging that Bill failed to timely file an inventory as ordered by the circuit court in August 2010. Travis alleged that Bill's conduct was contemptuous and that he should be appropriately punished. On October 8, 2010, Travis filed a petition for contempt, alleging that Bill failed to timely file an inventory as ordered by the circuit court in August 2010.

         According to an October 26, 2011 letter from Travis's counsel to the circuit court, the contempt issue was set for a hearing, but counsel met in chambers beforehand wherein Bill's counsel (1) agreed that he and Bill were in error and Bill agreed to pay Travis an attorney's fee of $500 and (2) discussed the return of Travis's personal property as soon as possible. Travis's counsel's letter stated that the $500 had been paid, but nothing else had occurred. Travis's counsel requested a hearing on Travis's demand that Bill file an inventory and on the issue of the return of Travis's property.

         On January 20, 2012, a hearing was held on Travis's petitions for relief and for contempt. At the onset of the hearing, counsel for Bill advised the court that Bill had filed an inventory that day. Travis's counsel responded, stating that he had filed a petition for relief asking for notice, publication to the creditors, an inventory, and an accounting. Travis's counsel stated that when those things did not occur, he filed the petition for contempt; however, the parties had resolved the contempt issue. Travis's counsel then requested that a new executor be appointed, to which counsel for Bill agreed. The circuit court granted the oral request; relieved Bill of his duties as executor of Allie's estate; appointed a third party, Chris Ray, as the executor of Allie's estate; and made a $10, 000 signature bond for Ray.

         Also on January 20, 2012, Bill filed a petition alleging that Travis had possession of estate property and seeking to have him return it to the estate. On January 30, 2012, Travis filed an objection to the inventory, claiming that there were items listed in it that belonged to him and that there were items listed that Bill previously alleged that Travis possessed.

         On May 3, 2016, the circuit court held another hearing and heard testimony from Bill, Travis, and Marsha Summit (Allie's granddaughter) and arguments regarding the items of personal property at issue. On June 24, 2016, the circuit court entered an order finding that Allie passed away on August 20, 2007; Bill was appointed executor of Allie's estate; on December 13, 2008, Bill and others appeared at Travis's home to retrieve items belonging to the estate; the estate had sufficient time to remove all items belonging to the estate on December 13, 2008; and the estate was entitled to only those items listed in the inventory filed January 20, 2012. The circuit court then ...


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