IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF: LORETTA S. WATKIN, a/k/a RITA WATKIN, Deceased.
TERI LUPOLI and JANICE CHAMPLIN, Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of Loretta S. Watkin, a/k/a Rita Watkin, KEITH STANSELL, RONALD STANSELL, LARRY STANSELL, MAXINE STANSELL, KENNETH STANSELL, RICHARD STANSELL, ALBERT STANSELL, CONNIE FOY and John and Jane Does 1-10, Defendants and Appellees. GRETA HERMAN, a/k/a JULIE HERMAN, Plaintiff and Appellant,
Submitted on Briefs: December 7, 2016
FROM: District Court of the First Judicial District, In and
For the County of Broadwater, Cause No. DV-2014-47 Honorable
James P. Reynolds, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Michael C. Doggett, Doggett Law Offices, PLLC,
Appellees: Mark Lancaster, DarAnne Dunning, Dale Reagor,
Luxan & Murfitt, PLLP, Helena, Montana
Michael E Wheat, Justice.
Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court
Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum
opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as
precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition
shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of
noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and
Loretta Stansell Watkin died on May 15, 2011, at age 99. She
had no children but was survived by four nieces, including
Teri Lupoli and Janice Champlin, and six nephews, all of whom
were named as defendants in this action. She was also
survived by step-daughter Greta Herman.
Watkin executed wills in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. The
2007, 2008, and 2009 Wills named Ann Rauser as Watkin's
personal representative. The 2007 Will provided that Herman
was to receive $10, 000 from the Estate, Champlin receive $6,
000, and Lupoli receive $1, 000. In the 2008 Will, Watkin
provided that Herman receive 5% of the Estate and Lupoli and
Champlin each were to receive 10% of Watkin's Estate. The
2009 Will provided that Herman, Lupoli and Champlin each
receive 10% of the Estate, with the remainder of the Estate
being equally distributed between her 10 surviving nieces and
nephews, including Lupoli and Champlin. The 2010 Will,
executed just eight months after the 2009 Will, indicated
that Herman was to receive $2, 000 and Lupoli and Champlin
were both to receive 10% of Watkin's Estate as well as
participate in distribution of the Estate remainder. Lupoli
and Champlin were also designated as co-personal
representatives for Watkin. At Watkin's death, her Estate
was valued at $355, 152.76. With personal representative fees
and distribution, Champlin and Lupoli each received
approximately $64, 500. Herman received $2, 000.
Herman, acting pro se, filed a complaint on July 21, 2014, in
the First Judicial District Court, Broadwater County,
claiming that Watkin's 2010 Will was fraudulent and
requesting that it be set aside and Watkin's 2009 Will be
reinstated. She further asserted that Lupoli and Champlin
acted fraudulently, maliciously, and in bad faith, and that
they exercised undue influence over Watkin. Herman asked the
District Court to remove Lupoli and Champlin as
representatives, deny them payment for their services, and
award Herman $33, 515 (the amount Herman would have received
under the 2009 Will) with interest as well as costs and fees.
In Lupoli and Champlin's answer to the Complaint, they
asserted numerous defenses including that Herman's
Complaint was barred by the applicable statute of
limitations. They moved to dismiss Herman's action on
statute of limitations grounds. In February 2015, the
District Court converted the Motion to Dismiss to a Motion
for Summary Judgment in accordance with the applicable court
rule and on the ground that it was presented with and
considered matters outside the pleadings. On May 6, 2015, the
District Court granted Lupoli and Champlin's motion and
dismissed Herman's Complaint. The court determined that
Herman had not filed her Complaint within the time prescribed
by the applicable statute of limitations. The court further
awarded attorney fees and costs to Lupoli and Champlin.
Herman filed a timely appeal. We affirm.
We review de novo a district court's grant or denial of
summary judgment, applying the same criteria of M. R. Civ. P.
56 as a district court. Under Rule 56(c), judgment
"shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law." Grizzly Sec. Armored Express, Inc. v. Bancard
Servs., 2016 MT 287, ¶ 13, 385 Mont. 307, 384 P.3d
68 (citations omitted).
The issue of whether a district court properly applied the
statute of limitations is a question of law. The standard of
review of a district court's conclusions of law is
whether the court's interpretation of the law is correct.
Mont. Interventional & Diagnostic Radiology
Specialists, PLLC v. St. Peter's Hosp., 2015 MT 258,
¶ 12, 381 Mont. 25, 355 P.3d 777.
In her Complaint, Herman challenges the validity of
Watkin's 2010 Will and seeks to have the 2009 Will
reinstated based upon her belief that: (1) Watkin lacked the
mental capacity to execute the 2010 Will and (2) that Lupoli
and Champlin ...