In re the Estate of: Mary Catherine Giebel, Deceased
Goodhue County District Court File No. 25-PR-11-2525
Sally M. Silk, Matthew J. Frerichs, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, L.L.P., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant Kevin E. Giebel)
Mary Elizabeth Giebel, Long Lake, Minnesota (attorney pro se)
Considered and decided by Connolly, Presiding Judge; Worke, Judge; and Larkin, Judge.
In this probate matter, appellant argues that the district court erred by removing him as personal representative and by denying his contempt and discovery motions. We affirm.
Decedent Mary Catherine Giebel died on September 1, 2011, and was survived by her four children: appellant personal representative Kevin Giebel, respondent Mary Elizabeth Giebel, Ann Marie Fisher, and Mary Carol Sucher. Decedent's will left the residue of her estate to her four children in equal shares and nominated appellant to act as personal representative. Appellant petitioned for informal probate and received letters testamentary on November 29, 2011.
Appellant, who is an attorney, handled various estate matters and sold decedent's home in July 2012, but relations between appellant and his sisters soured. Appellant accused Sucher of taking decedent's 2007 Honda and failing to make promised payments. He accused Sucher and Fisher of mishandling decedent's bank accounts and commingling funds while acting as decedent's attorneys-in-fact, and of removing personal property from the estate. Appellant accused respondent of receiving $6, 500 per month, totaling over $100, 000, for care services while decedent lived with respondent, without paying taxes on the funds. Respondent, Fisher, and Sucher accused appellant of various improprieties, such as removing personal property from decedent's house, and failing to timely file decedent's income tax returns, open an estate bank account, or wind up the estate's affairs.
Appellant refused to share information about the status of the probate action and threatened to charge his sisters fees for each request for information. Appellant informed his sisters that he changed his email settings to automatically delete any emails from them. Appellant accused his sisters of being disrespectful for using the word "grave" in emails when referring to his actions. Appellant scheduled depositions of his sisters so that he could uncover their alleged improprieties; his sisters refused to attend the depositions, claiming they were improperly notified or served. Respondent, who is also an attorney, stated that appellant had represented her in her divorce and had access to her financial records and that he committed improprieties and violated professional rules by now accusing her of financial impropriety.
Ultimately, in November 2012, appellant petitioned for formal probate of the will and a formal confirmation of his appointment as personal representative, and moved to have respondent held in contempt. Respondent filed objections to the petition for appointment and the contempt motion, and requested immediate removal of appellant as personal representative.
At the motion hearing, the district court permitted both appellant and respondent to argue, although no sworn testimony was taken. Both parties submitted affidavits and memoranda, which the district court agreed to review. The district court subsequently issued its order denying all motions. In particular, the district court denied appellant's petition for appointment as personal representative "based upon an irreconcilable conflict between [appellant] and his siblings which requires the ...