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In re Estate of Mealey

April 26, 2005

ESTATE OF LINDA JEANNE MEALEY, DECEDENT.


Minge, Judge. Sherburne County District Court. File No. P0-02-2505.

Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Poritsky, Judge.*fn1

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

A person who is not affected by the administration of a will does not have standing to appeal the final accounting.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Minge, Judge

Affirmed

OPINION

Appellant challenges the district court's order accepting the final account in the probate of his daughter's estate. Because appellant has no financial rights affected by the final account that accord him standing to appeal, we affirm.

FACTS

Linda Jeanne Mealey died testate on November 5, 2002, in Sherburne County. She is survived by her spouse, James W. Davis, and her parents, George and June Mealey. On January 30, 2003, her will was admitted to probate and Carol M. Wolfsey, the personal representative designated in the will, was appointed to that position.

Other than tangible goods, the will directs that the decedent's estate be distributed to seven beneficiaries. Devises of the lesser of 8% of the estate or $10,000 each are left to Robin Fall and John Veale, two of the decedent's friends. Decedent left Davis, her husband, the elective spousal share under Minnesota law.*fn2 Davis was given the right to choose which assets of the estate he wished to take to satisfy the bequest. The remaining portion of the estate was divided among four institutions: Cornell University - 50%, the Ocean Conservancy - 25%, Save-the-Redwoods League - 12 1/2%, and Bat Conservation International - 12 1/2%.

As a part of his share, Davis chose to take an Australian home owned by decedent. The personal representative valued the home as of the date Davis received a receipt from the personal representative acknowledging the transfer and used the exchange rate between the United States and Australian dollar at the date of decedent's death. The personal representative then filed a petition to allow final account, settle, and distribute the estate. This petition included a description of how the home in Australia was valued and how the exchange rate was determined.

The district court scheduled a hearing on the petition for April 15, 2004. The petition and related documents were mailed to all beneficiaries under the will and the attorney general's office. The personal representative also sent Davis and the charities a form for consenting to the final account. All signed and returned the consent form. The Minnesota Attorney General's Office also submitted a letter dated April 1, 2004, stating that it did not object to the petition.

During 2003, George Mealey, the decedent's father and the appellant in this case, began reviewing the distribution of the decedent's estate. Appellant calculated that Davis gained an advantage of approximately $222,000 because the personal representative used an exchange rate and a valuation date highly favorable to him and approximately $185,000 by the interpretation of a provision in the will related to the elective share. Appellant claims that he communicated to the Minnesota Attorney General's Office his concern that these determinations by the personal representative were inappropriate and asserts that, as a result of appellant's action, the personal representative agreed to make all the parties aware of the valuation and exchange-rate issues and to present them to the court. The only evidence of this agreement is a letter on February 27, 2004, from the attorney general's office confirming an agreement between counsel for the personal representative and the attorney general's office that these issues would be presented to the beneficiaries and the court.

On April 14, 2004, one day before the scheduled hearing, appellant filed a motion to appear as amicus curiae and to be appointed the personal representative. The motion included information related to the valuation of the Australian home and the nature of the bequest to Davis. At approximately the same time, beneficiaries Fall and Veale, the decedent's friends receiving $10,000 under the will, objected on the same grounds. At the hearing, the district court considered arguments related to whether appellant should be awarded status as amicus curiae and whether Fall and Veale had standing to object to the petition. The court asked for written submissions from the parties on these issues. Although one of the institutional devisees requested the ...


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