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In re Estate of Spaltholz

Superior Court of Rhode Island

November 25, 2014

In Re: Estate of RALPH E. SPALTHOLZ, Resident decedent of Richmond, Rhode Island

Washington County Superior Court

For Appellant: Mark A. Sjoberg, Esq. Jennifer A. Niedzinski, Esq.

For Defendant: Anthony R. Mignanelli, Esq.

DECISION

K. RODGERS, J.

This probate appeal arises from the denial of a Petition for Leave to File Claim Out of Time pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 33-11-5 filed by Appellant, Dorene R. Schulz (Schulz or Appellant). Schulz's Petition was denied by the Town of Richmond Probate Court (Richmond Probate Court). Appellee, Renee L. Spaltholz (Spaltholz), the Executrix of the Estate of Ralph E. Spaltholz (the Executrix, the Estate and Decedent, respectively), maintains that Schulz's Petition was properly denied.

The parties have briefed the issues raised and have presented supporting documents. Neither party contends that factual issues exist which require an evidentiary hearing. On October 29, 2014, this Court issued an Order stating that the issues raised by the parties would be decided on the record presently before the Court and without the need for further briefing or evidentiary hearing.

Jurisdiction is pursuant to § 33-23-1. For the reasons set forth herein, judgment shall enter for the Estate.

I

Facts and Travel

Schulz is Decedent's only surviving sibling and is a resident of Illinois. Their brother, W. John Spaltholz (John), was a resident of South Dakota and died intestate on December 24, 2000. John was unmarried and had no children. Under South Dakota laws of intestacy, Schulz and Decedent were John's heirs-at-law and sole beneficiaries. Schulz was appointed as the personal representative of John's estate.

John's estate consisted of certain real estate located in Platte, South Dakota (South Dakota Property) and two parcels of farmland in Maple Park, Illinois (Illinois Property, and collectively, the Properties). All three parcels passed to Schulz and Decedent as tenants in common. According to Schulz, she and Decedent agreed to and did secure a mortgage on the Illinois Property for approximately $100, 000 in order to pay certain estate taxes as well as debts and liabilities of John. Schulz alleges that, although the Properties generated income at various times, the income was insufficient to cover all the expenses; Schulz used her personal funds to pay such uncovered expenses. Additionally, Schulz maintains that she loaned Decedent the sum of $17, 300 in 2001 and paid for miscellaneous items for which she was to be reimbursed by Decedent.

Decedent was a resident of Richmond at the time of his death on February 13, 2009. Schulz attended Decedent's funeral and was in communication with Decedent's wife, the Executrix, subsequent to the funeral. On May 7, 2009, Decedent's Last Will and Testament, dated March 9, 1985, was admitted to probate and the Executrix was qualified by the Richmond Probate Court to serve in such capacity. The first publication of the notice of qualification of Executrix by the Clerk of the Richmond Probate Court was on May 14, 2009. Accordingly, the so-called creditors' claim period pursuant to § 33-11-5(a) expired on November 14, 2009.

Counsel for the Executrix sent two letters to Schulz, both of which were received without undue delay. The first letter, dated August 17, 2009, provides in pertinent part:

"Enclosed please find a copy of a Certificate of Appointment, issued by the Probate Court for the Town of Richmond, Rhode Island, appointing Renee L. Spaltholz as Executrix of her late husband's estate. Ms. Spaltholz has retained this office to represent her and the estate.
"I have also enclosed a copy of Ralph's Will, showing he left everything to Renee, including his interest in the property he held jointly with you in South Dakota and Illinois. In looking through Ralph's personal papers, it appears that he also had at least one joint checking account and a loan on the property in Illinois."
"It would save a lot of time and money, if you would be so kind to forward this office any paper work you have on the joint accounts; the lease agreement and the ...

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