Citation. In re Estate of Goick, 909 P.2d 1165, 275 Mont. 13, 53 Mont. St. Rep. 12 (Mont. Jan. 9, 1996)
Law Students: Don’t know your Studybuddy Pro login? Register here
Brief Fact Summary.
Appellants claim that Respondent is not the surviving spouse but rather the ex-wife of the decedent. Therefore it was error of the court to appoint the Respondent as the personal representative of the decedent’s estate.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
When no divorce decree or order is on record a party will not be estopped from claiming that she is not divorced from the decedent. A divorce decree cannot be based on an oral agreement between parties but rather must be an order of the court.
Michael and Barbara Goick were married in 1981 and had three children. In December of 1990 Michael filed for a divorce. At a hearing in April of 1991 the parties agreed on all issued exception the division of household goods. Following the hearing the judge was asked whether the couple was divorce and apparently responded that they were. The parties were unable to agree on the division of household goods and in December of 1991 Barbara, Respondent, filed a motion to divide personal property of the marriage. No further proceeding occurred in the divorce action and no final decree of divorce was issued. Michael died in November of 1992 and two days after his death Respondent moved to dismiss the divorce proceeding and the order was granted. Subsequently Respondent was appointed personal representative over objection of the Appellants that she was not the decedent’s surviving spouse. In addition an oral settlement agreement was reached but not signed by the parties, Appel
lants filed a motion to compel settlement that was denied. Respondent also entered into a distribution agreement with the children through their guardian ad litem and such agreement was approved by the court.
Do the Appellants lack standing to appeal?
Did the trial court err in concluding that Respondent was the surviving spouse for purposes of intestate succession?
Did the trial court err in appointing Respondent as personal representative of decedent’s estate?
Did the trial court err in denying the Appellant’s motion to compel settlement of the case?
Is Respondent entitled to attorney fees and costs related to the appeal?
No. Appellant Wanda, as creditor of the decedent, is an aggrieved party as to trial court’s decision on the appointment of Respondent as personal representative. In addition none of the Appellants have standing to contest the enforcement of the distribution or oral settlement agreements.
No. The record shows that no divorce decree was every issued and therefore the trial court did not err in holding that Respondent was the surviving spouse of the decedent.
No. As the surviving spouse of the decedent, Respondent has priority for appointment as personal representative and her appointment was agreed to by the children through their guardian ad litem.
No. Since the settlement agreement in this case was oral and not on file with the court or in the minutes the trial court did not err in denying the Appellant’s motion to compel settlement.
No. Respondent is not entitled to attorney fees and cost as the record demonstrates that the issues raised by the Appellants were based on reasonable grounds.
To have standing a party must have an interest in the subject matter of the litigation which is affected by an order. Settlement agreements must be filed with the clerk or entered into in the minutes of the court. In addition distribution agreements are required to be in writing. A party is entitled to an award of attorney fees and cost if the case is taken without substantial or reasonable grounds.