Articles Posted in Probate litigation

Stephen Michael Agin died without a will on April 10, 2014 at the age of 82. He owned an account with 4% interest in a trust established by his uncle, Michael Yergovich. The account had a total value of $8,052. Yergovich had died 3 months before Agin.

The trust amendment made by Yergovich provided that in the event of his death, all interests “shall immediately pass and vest, as follows, per stirpes” listing four siblings of Yergovich, each receiving 20% and 5 nieces and nephews, including Agin, each receiving 4%.

Agin’s wife, Jessica, as well as his son from a prior marriage, Stephen L. Agin, filed cross petitions for administration of Agin’s estate.

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Albert Lello’s will gave his assets (after paying debts, taxes and administrative expenses) to his wife, Luzminda and two of his three sisters, Virginia Harris and Rita Sopka. The will, written in 2005, stated that the assets were “to share and share alike in equal shares or to the survivor or survivors of them.”

He died at age 88 in 2012 and left an estate worth approximately $8.2 million. His sister, Virginia Harris, had died and was survived by 4 children; they argued they were entitled to their mother’s share. Luzminda, the wife, renounced the will and elected to take her statutory share.

The Harris children petitioned the court for construction of the will. The surviving sister, Rita Sopka, moved to dismiss, arguing the will created a class gift.

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The Illinois Supreme Court has affirmed an order of the circuit court judge who granted a petition filed by the guardian ad litem (GAL) for the minor, A.A., to vacate a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity (VAP) signed by the respondents Matthew A. and Caitlin S. with regard to the minor. The appellate court affirmed and held that after DNA testing established that Matthew was not the biological father of A.A., the trial court was not required to make a “best interest of the child” determination prior to granting the petition.

Following A.A.’s birth on April 26, 2013, Matthew and Caitlin signed a VAP pursuant to section 6(a) of the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984, 750 ILCS 45/6(a). Caitlin, A.A.’s mother had been married to Jakob S., who signed a denial of paternity as to A.A.

On June 10, 2013, the state filed a petition for adjudication of wardship in juvenile court following an investigation of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) into the conditions of the home where A.A. was living with Caitlin, Matthew and Caitlin’s three other children. The state claimed that there was neglect and an injurious environment based upon inadequate supervision, lack of cleanliness in the home and hygiene issues concerning the four children.

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In an Illinois Appellate Court decision of first impression, it was found that a non-guardian spouse cannot challenge a guardian’s petition to seek an order to bring dissolution of marriage action on behalf of the ward in the probate court. Previously in the Illinois Supreme Court case of Karbin v. Karbin, 2012 IL 112815, the high court held that a guardian may seek court permission to bring a marriage dissolution action on behalf of a ward and overruled a contrary rule previously established. The Karbin decision was later codified as an amendment to the Probate Act, by amending 755 ILCS 5/11a-17(e).

The Karbin opinion and the Act set out certain procedural and substantive safeguards to protect the ward. Among those safeguards is the requirement that a circuit court considering a petition to file for dissolution of marriage hold a hearing to determine whether dissolution is in ward’s best interest. This case was one of first impression because it was a non-guardian spouse who attempted to challenge whether it was in the best interest of the ward to file a complaint for dissolution of marriage. The issue was whether the non-guardian spouse has standing in the “best interests of the ward” hearing.

George F. Warga, the ward, was 91 years old. When his first wife became ill, he hired a nurse, Laima Bacanskas, to help with her care. His first wife died in 2000. Warga continued to retain Bacanskas to help with household duties. In 2006, the two married. They had no children.

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