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In re Estate of Clare

Supreme Court of Kansas

March 3, 2017

In The Matter of the Estate of Michael A. Clare, Deceased.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. Although K.S.A. 59-2204 requires that a petitioner in probate cause the matter to be set for a hearing, the statute does not define the means for setting down a hearing. The probate statutes do not require a written order setting a hearing.

         2. A local court rule may not conflict with statutes or Supreme Court rules.

         3. The validity of a local rule is subject to review for its reasonableness.

         Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in 51 Kan.App.2d 886, 357 P.3d 303 (2015). Appeal from Johnson District Court; Michael P. Joyce, judge. Judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the district court is reversed. Judgment of the district court is reversed.

          John W. Kurtz, of Hubbard & Kurtz, L.L.P., of Kansas City, Missouri, was on the brief for appellant Jessica Kay Crosslin.

          Charles J. Andres, of Olathe, was on the brief for appellee Christine J. Clare.

          OPINION

          Rosen, J.

         This appeal involves a claim against an estate under the Kansas Probate Code. Because the decisions of the district court and the Court of Appeals conflict with our holding in In re Estate of Rickabaugh, ___ Kan.___, ___ P.3d ___(No. 111, 389, this day decided), we reverse both courts and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         On December 22, 2013, Michael A. Clare shot and killed his wife, Deborah Clare, and then took his own life. He died intestate. The principal asset of his estate was a $250, 000 life insurance policy. Deborah was listed as the beneficiary, with Michael's legal children listed as the contingent beneficiaries. However, Michael had no legal children.

         Shirley R. Stockton was Michael Clare's mother. Christine J. Clare is the sister of Shirley Stockton. Jessica Kay Crosslin is the biological daughter of Deborah Clare.

         Crosslin filed a petition for letters of administration on June 10, 2014. On June 16, 2014, Crosslin, through counsel, exchanged e-mails with Jodi Sullivan, an administrative assistant for the district court, requesting a date for a hearing on the petition. Crosslin chose July 21, 2014, at 9:30 a.m., as a hearing date and time, and Sullivan informed her that she would "put it on our calendar." Sullivan subsequently entered that date and a hearing time on the court's electronic docket sheet. Crosslin did not, however, submit an order for hearing for signature, and no such order was issued. Crosslin subsequently published a notice of hearing and notice to creditors in the Olathe News.

         On July 2, 2014, while that hearing was pending, Shirley Stockton filed a nomination for Christine Clare to be issued letters of administration in Michael's estate. Christine concurrently filed a petition for letters of administration. She also submitted an order for hearing, setting a hearing date of July 21, 2014, at 9:30 a.m., for the signature of the court. On July 3, 2014, the judge signed the order, apparently through an assistant.

         Crosslin was appointed administrator of Deborah Clare's estate. Then, on August 25, 2014, the district court entered an order appointing Christine ...


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