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IN RE ESTATE OF RANEY

October 26, 1990.

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF CARL EDWARD RANEY, Deceased.


The opinion of the court was delivered by

This is an appeal from the trial court's judgment finding that the decedent, Carl Edward Raney, lacked testamentary capacity at the time of the execution of his will because of an insane delusion. The appellants, who are decedent's sisters and the beneficiaries of the will, also appeal the trial court's denial of a new trial. The appellees are Virginia Cauthorn, Carl A.

[247 Kan. 360]

      Raney, and Wayne L. Raney, children and only heirs of the decedent.

The facts are extensive and, because the appellants challenge the sufficiency of the evidence, the facts need to be stated in some detail. The decedent, Carl Edward Raney (a/k/a Tag), executed his last will and testament on October 27, 1987, and died on January 17, 1989. He married Rosa Lee Raney in May 1947; they were divorced in October 1981.

  By all accounts, decedent was a difficult person to live with. His former wife, Lee, testified that he controlled everything and everybody with his anger. If the family did what he wanted, then it was not bad, and they all got along fairly well. Decedent had always drunk alcohol, but after his father died in 1970, his drinking became a daily occurrence. Decedent was close to his father, and, after his father's death, decedent's mother and sisters sued him over division of the estate. This litigation "wounded" decedent severely, causing stress that he did not handle well. The fear, anger, and hurt decedent felt after the loss of his father and the litigation involving his father's estate were apparently transferred or displaced from his mother and sisters to his wife and children.

  Decedent's daughter, Virginia, lived abroad from January 1975 until May 1985. At one point, her father called her frequently and was angry because she had loaned her mother money when her mother and father had divorced.

  Decedent's son, Wayne, attended two years of college in Colby and one year at Kansas State University and returned home in 1975 to drive a tractor for his father. Wayne was involved with a girl and planned to marry her, but his father would not let him leave the farm, and the relationship ended. Decedent would hide keys and let air out of tires to keep Wayne from leaving. Wayne testified that after Lee found and gave him the keys to the 1966 Ford that summer in 1975, "I started it up and I left and I didn't look back."

  Decedent's son, Carl, farmed for his father until 1976. After his father fired him, Carl began to farm for his father's former landlord, which angered decedent. Through a loan, Carl began to purchase equipment and, in 1977, moved into an old farmhouse that he leased from his father. Carl testified that, in 1978 and

[247 Kan. 361]

      1979, he may have done some custom work for his father; in 1980, Carl farmed his parents' property at the request of the court in their divorce action. After the divorce, his mother, who received six quarters of land in the property settlement, as well as equipment, leased her land to Carl to farm. He bought her farm equipment.

  Carl attempted to help his father manage his finances over the next few years, but, on May 24, 1985, Carl wrote a letter stating that he wanted no more responsibility concerning his father's affairs. Carl sent a copy of the letter to Gene Shore, who was the husband of decedent's sister, Janet Shore, and to decedent's mother. One item that Carl did not want to deal with was the sale of decedent's house in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Decedent had given Carl a power of attorney to handle this sale but would not consider offers that Carl presented. In addition, one of decedent's five quarter sections of land in Stanton County was being foreclosed. Carl anticipated that the proceeds from the sale of decedent's house in Colorado Springs would be used to redeem the property being foreclosed in Stanton County.

  Gene Shore testified that the house in Colorado Springs was sold for more than the first offer, with decedent receiving almost $50,000. Decedent carried the check for these proceeds in his pocket for several days until Shore took him to the bank and had him deposit it. In mid-1985, the land being foreclosed in Stanton County was sold at a public auction. At decedent's request, Shore bought the land on his behalf. Later, decedent changed his mind about redeeming the land from Shore, who feared that he would be stuck with property that he did not want. In the end, the property was redeemed by the conservatorship.

  Some time between Carl's May 24, 1985, letter to his father and the filing of the conservatorship on August 27, 1985, decedent's children met at their mother's house and decided to seek a conservatorship for their father. The decision occurred soon after decedent appeared at Carl's farm with a gun. Carl was not present at the time, but decedent talked to Carl's employee and threatened to harm Carl. Decedent's other son, Wayne, was present but did not talk with his father.

  When decedent learned of the conservatorship, he transferred $46,000 from the proceeds of the sale of the Colorado Springs

[247 Kan. 362]

      house to his mother, Edith Raney. The conservatorship sued to retrieve the $46,000. After using these proceeds to redeem the Kansas property, the conservatorship obtained a $160,000 loan secured by a mortgage on all the Kansas property. Prior to this, three of the five quarter sections had not been encumbered.

  For financial reasons, Carl organized a corporation called Raney Farms, Inc., (Raney Farms) to handle his farm work. Raney Farms rented decedent's land from the conservatorship. At this time, Lee owned 100% of the shares of Raney Farms. Carl did not tell his father that the land in the conservatorship had been rented to Lee's corporation, and the record does not indicate how decedent learned of this arrangement. Carl planted the crops and was paid by the conservatorship. The next year, the land was placed in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and the conservatorship received the CRP payments.

  Decedent received repeated counseling and treatment for his alcoholism and anger. He was an inpatient at Prairie View from September 1985 to January 1986, where he became a patient of Dr. Bellows-Blakely, a psychiatrist. When Dr. Bellows-Blakely first saw decedent, decedent was debilitated. According to Dr. Bellows-Blakely, decedent had a complex character: He had a dependent personality and needed to be taken care of but, at the same time, resented his dependency. Although decedent was suspicious of anyone connected with his assets, Dr. Bellows-Blakely did not believe that decedent was psychotic. He described psychotic behavior as a thought disorder in which someone loses contact with reality and holds a view that would be contrary to that of a reasonable person. In Dr. Bellows-Blakely's opinion, decedent had a mixed personality disorder with borderline, dependent, passive-aggressive, and paranoid traits; had chronic alcoholism that he refused to acknowledge; and had organic personality syndrome. In September 1987, the doctor concluded that decedent had the mental capacity to manage his own affairs if he would not distort the world. The doctor testified decedent was bent on revenge or a vendetta with his family and could not get off that line of thought long enough to put his life together. The doctor viewed decedent's wish for revenge as a psychological defense mechanism protecting him from the awful reality of the wreckage of his life, in which he had participated.

[247 Kan. 363]

     

  After four months as an inpatient at Prairie View, decedent did not want to participate in its outpatient program and was transferred to Larned State Hospital. Later, he participated in the Omni Program at Dodge City Mental Health Center. His social worker, Ron Rinehart, saw decedent on a daily basis. Rinehart observed that decedent cared about and maintained a good physical appearance even though he was depressed. Without question, decedent knew who his relatives were and what property he owned. Decedent became so angry concerning the conservatorship that he could not talk about it. His meetings with his family were short confrontations. Decedent wanted someone to take care of him, but Rinehart observed that decedent was doing well on his own. According to Rinehart, decedent was never delusional, although he blamed his children for his situation and was very angry with them.

  Decedent left the Omni program in Dodge City without approval. Driving a car he bought with money saved from the allowance he received from the conservatorship, he was arrested for DUI and driving left of center. He was incarcerated in the Stanton County Jail from July 11, 1987, to January 7, 1988. Dr. Roger Troup, decedent's physician and friend, described decedent as a "snowbird" — someone who is comfortable, and wants to be, in jail. Dr. Troup explained that when decedent was in jail, he got out from under the control exercised by the conservatorship. Dr. Bellows-Blakely noted that decedent considered being under the conservatorship very similar to being in jail because one lost control over one's life in both settings.

  Jim Garrison, Stanton County Sheriff, knew decedent from numerous encounters resulting from domestic arguments. He knew decedent resented the conservatorship because conversations with decedent always got to that issue. On October 27, 1987, decedent executed his will while in jail. Sheriff Garrison, who was present, had no doubt that decedent was of sound mind and knew what was going on when signing the will.

  Evan Nightingale, the attorney who drafted the will, died on December 26, 1988, just prior to decedent's death. His partner, Shirley Kyner, was a witness to the execution of the will. Kyner had no question in her mind that decedent was competent ...


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