IN COURT OF APPEALS
Estate of Linda Jeanne Mealey, Decedent.
Sherburne County District Court
File No. P0-02-2505
Kevin A. Spellacy, Gerald L. Thoreen, Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., 400 South First Street, Suite 600, P.O. Box 1008, St. Cloud, MN 56302-1008 (for appellant George Mealey)
Chad M. Roggeman, David R. Crosby, Aaron J. Crandall, Leonard, Street and Deinard, P.A., 3800 Eighth Street North, Suite 102, St. Cloud, MN 56303 (for respondent Carol Wofsey)
Christopher W. Harmoning, Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennett, P.A., 1010 West St. Germain, Suite 600, St. Cloud, MN 56301 (for respondent W. James Davis)
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Poritsky, Judge.*
A person who is not affected by the administration of a will does not have standing to appeal the final accounting.
Appellant challenges the district court’s order accepting the final account in the probate of his daughter’s estate. Because appellant has no financial rights affected by the final account that accord him standing to appeal, we affirm.
Linda Jeanne Mealey died testate on November
5, 2002, in
Other than tangible goods, the will directs
that the decedent’s estate be distributed to seven beneficiaries. Devises of the lesser of 8% of the estate or
$10,000 each are left to Robin Fall and John Veale, two of the decedent’s
friends. Decedent left Davis, her
husband, the elective spousal share under
As a part of his share,
The district court scheduled a hearing on the
petition for April 15, 2004. The
petition and related documents were mailed to all beneficiaries under the will
and the attorney general’s office. The
personal representative also sent
During 2003, George Mealey, the decedent’s
father and the appellant in this case, began reviewing the distribution of the
decedent’s estate. Appellant calculated
On April 14, 2004, one day before the
scheduled hearing, appellant filed a motion to appear as amicus curiae and to
be appointed the personal representative.
The motion included information related to the valuation of the
Australian home and the nature of the bequest to
The district court concluded that Fall and Veale did not have standing to object to the final accounting because their bequests had been satisfied and that they would not be affected by the controversy. The court also rejected appellant’s motions to be awarded amicus curiae status and to be appointed as special administrator. The district court accepted the final account.
Does appellant have standing to appeal the final accounting of his daughter’s probate estate?
The threshold question is whether appellant has
standing to object to the final account of the decedent’s estate based on a
claim that the administration of the estate wrongfully gave Davis too large a
share and the institutional beneficiaries too small a share. “Whether
a party has standing is a question of law that appellate courts review de
novo.” In re Horton, 668 N.W.2d
208, 212 (
includes heirs, devisees, children, spouses, creditors, beneficiaries and any others having a property right in or claim against the estate of a decedent, ward or protected person which may be affected by the proceeding . . . . The meaning as it relates to particular persons may vary from time to time and must be determined according to the particular purposes of, and matter involved in, any proceeding.
Appellant does not fall
within the statutory definition of an “interested party.” He has no financial stake in the accounting under
the will because he is not a beneficiary.
No legal or other rights of appellant are affected by how the will is administered. Appellant’s claim focuses on his desire to
ensure that his daughter’s donative intent is implemented. Appellant also argues that he is an aggrieved
party because he was involved with an agreement between the attorney general’s
office and the personal representative’s counsel to present issues related to
the valuation of the house in
This letter is to confirm my agreement with [personal representative’s counsel] that the attorneys for the personal representative will ensure that all of the beneficiaries are made aware of the exchange rate issue. In addition, [personal representative’s counsel] informed me that this issue will be presented to the court and the court will be asked to decide what impact the exchange rate has on the valuation of the Australian property.
Appellant claims that this agreement was breached and that he is an aggrieved party. However, this agreement is clearly stated to be between the attorney general’s office and counsel for the personal representative. Therefore, appellant cannot claim aggrieved status as a result of any purported breach. In addition, even assuming that there was some agreement, it is unclear if the agreement was breached because the exchange-rate issue was detailed in the petition to allow the final account that was distributed to all of the parties and submitted to the court. The attorney general wrote to the court that it did not oppose the relief requested in the petition. The appellant cannot gain standing by trying to assert a right that the attorney general’s office has chosen not to assert. See Wurm v. John Deere Leasing Co., 405 N.W.2d 484, 486 (Minn. App. 1987) (stating that a party cannot gain standing by asserting the claim of another person).
Appellant also argues that he has standing
under the will because public policy supports administration of estates
consistent with the testamentary intention of the decedent. Appellant cites
Appellant in this case is essentially trying to step into the shoes of one of the benefited institutions or the attorney general to enforce its interest in the case. However, all of the beneficiaries were notified of the issues. The institutions are sophisticated, had access to legal counsel, had enough at stake to give them an incentive to object if they felt the account was wrong, consented to the final account, did not withdraw their consents, and did not appeal. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office was fully apprised of appellant’s objections and declined to intervene. If appellant were granted standing to appeal, any person would have standing to appeal, despite not having any right or claim that would be affected by the proceeding. This is inconsistent with Minn. Stat. §§ 524.1-201 and 525.712.
Because appellant is not adversely affected by the decision of the district court, he does not have standing to bring this appeal. Appellant does not seek review of his requests to the district court that he be allowed to appear amicus curia or that he be appointed special personal representative; therefore we do not address them in this appeal. Further, given our determination that appellant does not have standing, we do not reach the merits of appellant’s challenge to the account.
Because appellant has no financial stake in or legal or other right affected by the accounting of the will, he is not aggrieved by the decision of the district court and does not have standing to appeal the order allowing the final account.