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Wolfe v. Young

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

June 9, 2017

ROY GREGORY WOLFE, EXECUTOR FOR THE ESTATE OF ROY CLEMENT WOLFE APPELLANT
v.
MICHELLE YOUNG, PAULA VANOVER and MARLA HAYS APPELLEES

         ON DISCRETIONARY REVIEW FROM BOYLE CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE DARREN W. PECKLER, JUDGE ACTION NO. 15-XX-00001

          BRIEF FOR APPELLANT: Jason T. Ams Timothy Dunn Jr. Lexington, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: J. Robert Lyons, Jr. Lexington, Kentucky

          BEFORE: CLAYTON, COMBS, AND TAYLOR, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          COMBS, JUDGE.

         This is a case arising out of probate law in which we granted discretionary review. Roy Gregory Wolfe contends that the circuit court erred by affirming an order of the district court order removing him as executor of his father's estate. Wolfe argues that the district court failed to apply the correct standard concerning the allegation of the other beneficiaries that he was unsuited to hold this fiduciary position. Having carefully considered the arguments of counsel and the law governing the issue, we agree that the district court erred by removing Wolfe as executor and that the circuit court erred in affirming the decision of the district court. Consequently, we reverse and remand.

         Roy Clement Wolfe, a resident of Boyle County, died testate on February 21, 2014. His will was admitted to probate on March 20, 2014. Article I directed that the decedent's just debts, funeral expenses, taxes, and costs of administration be paid out of the residuary estate.

         Article II granted Wolfe the exclusive option to purchase from the estate a log cabin located in Russell Springs - including all its furnishings. The will provided that Wolfe could buy the property within six months at the value assessed by the property valuation administrator on the date of death, and it authorized a partial distribution of the estate to enable Wolfe to pay for the real property.

         Article III bequeathed to Wolfe "all of my tools and any boat owned by me at the time of my death."

         Article IV bequeathed to the decedent's surviving children the household furniture and tangible personal property in his Danville home. The property was to be divided by agreement; if agreement could not be reached on any item within sixty days of death, the item was to be sold by the executor with the proceeds to be added to the residuary clause.

         Article V provided that the residue of the estate would be divided in equal shares among the decedent's daughters, Michelle Young; Paula Vanover; Marla Hays; and his son, Roy Gregory Wolfe (per stirpes). Finally, the will named Roy Gregory Wolfe as executor of the estate.

         Wolfe was duly appointed by order of the Boyle District Court. In his capacity as executor, Wolfe filed an inventory of his father's estate on May 16, 2014.

         The inventory reported assets having a total estimated value of $1, 276, 269.00 and included: a position in Duke Energy valued at $518, 345; a position in Spectra Energy Corp. valued at $408, 924; the residence in Danville valued at $155, 000; the cabin in Russell Springs valued at $130, 000; two insurance policies valued at $27, 000; tools at the Danville residence (including a lawn mower) valued at $15, 000; tools at the cabin (including a lawn tractor) valued at $15, 000; and a number of items of tangible personal property.

         On June 5, 2014, through counsel, the decedent's daughters sent a letter to their brother demanding that Wolfe amend the inventory or otherwise account for assets that they alleged had been omitted from their father's estate. They contended that the inventory failed to include a 2008 truck (valued at $12, 000); a man's diamond ring (valued at $25, 000); a German carving set; a blue oriental bowl & plate; some glassware; some old love letters; a long, black coat; a purple heart medal; "silver"; guns; and some "new hand weights." They contested Wolfe's classification of the mower and yard tractor as "tools" and suggested that this alleged mis-classification could constitute a breach of his fiduciary duties. They also objected to Wolfe's failure to allow them access to the real property and his decision to expend estate funds to improve the real property without notice to them - including some $7, 000 ...


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