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Douglas P. Ecton, Personal Representative v. Zales N. Ecton

April 30, 2013

DOUGLAS P. ECTON, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF ZALES N. ECTON, JR., APPLICANT AND APPELLANT,
v.
ZALES N. ECTON, III, RESPONDENT AND APPELLEE.



APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DP-06-132A Honorable Holly Brown, Presiding Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Patricia O. Cotter

Submitted on Briefs: March 6, 2013

Decided: April 30, 2013

Filed:

Clerk

Justice Patricia O. Cotter delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶1 Douglas P. Ecton (Doug), the personal representative of the estate of Zales N. Ecton, Jr. (Decedent), appeals from a final distribution order of the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County, which interpreted Decedent's last will and testament to devise the entirety of Decedent's real property known as the "Home Ranch" to Zales N. Ecton, III (Zales). We affirm.

ISSUES

¶2 Doug raises the following two issues on appeal:

¶3 1. Did the District Court err in interpreting the requirement in the Decedent's last will and testament that I.R.C. § 2032A property be distributed as part of the residuary estate, as requiring a specific devise of the I.R.C. § 2032A property to Zales rather than a devise to the residuary beneficiaries?

¶4 2. Did the District Court err in allowing Zales to raise an objection to the personal representative's decision to award the income from the I.R.C. § 2032A property to the residuary beneficiaries more than thirty days after the proposed distribution was submitted for approval?

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

¶5 This case involves a dispute between siblings over who was entitled to receive farm and ranch land owned by their parents. The real property at issue, the Home Ranch, consisted of over 1900 acres located near Amsterdam, Montana.

¶6 On October 26, 1990, Decedent executed his last will and testament. Decedent's last will and testament was a reciprocal will with his wife, Patricia Ecton (Patricia).

Decedent and Patricia had three children: Zales, of Amsterdam, Montana; Doug, of Spokane, Washington; and Elaine E. Fulton (Elaine), of Spokane, Washington. Zales operated the farm and ranch business on the Home Ranch for nearly forty years.

¶7 Decedent's last will and testament contained the following pertinent provisions:

FIVE: (C)(1) Upon the death of my wife, the trust shall terminate. If the "Home Ranch" described in subparagraph (C)(3) or any portion of that ranch is then an asset of the trust estate, the trustee shall distribute the "Home Ranch" or so much of it as is part of the trust estate to my son ZALES N. ECTON III if (i) he is then living and (ii) if he pays Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000) each to my son DOUGLAS B. ECTON and my daughter ELAINE E. FULTON. Such may be paid on a deferred basis in annual installments for a period not to exceed ten (10) years with interest at the lowest I.R.S. permissible interest rate. If DOUGLAS is not then living, ZALES may receive the trust's interest in the "Home Ranch" without any payment to DOUGLAS' estate or distributees. If ELAINE is not then living, ZALES may receive the trust's interest in the "Home Ranch" without any payment to ELAINE's estate or distributees. If ZALES is not then living, the provisions of this paragraph concerning the distribution of the "Home Ranch" will not apply.

(2) All of the then-remaining assets then contained in the trust shall be divided into equal separate shares, so as to provide one share for each child of mine, then living, and one share for the then-living descendants, collectively, of each then deceased child of mine. The trustee shall distribute each share set aside for a living child of mine to each such child. Additionally, the trustee shall distribute the share ...


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