Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Probate Court Decision on the Passing of Property Per Stirpes

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.

Jessica Agin was named administrator. She also filed an affidavit of heirship since she was Agin’s wife and his four children from a previous marriage were all of age and mentally competent.  The court declared Jessica Agin and Agin’s four children to be his heirs.

The son of Agin, Stephen L. Agin, claimed that he, on behalf of his siblings, was entitled to $8,052 and that amount was to be divided among the heirs, pointing out the amendment to the trust, which specified that it passes “per stirpes.”  The trial court disagreed, finding that “per stirpes” was intended to designate distribution to the successor beneficiaries in case the named ones were deceased by the time Yergovich had died.

Because Yergovich predeceased Agin by 3 months, the probate court correctly found that the interest in the bank account had become Agin’s property and did not have to be distributed per stirpes and thus belonged to Agin’s estate.

On appeal, the son argued that because Agin did not do anything with the property, it was never accessed or distributed until his death, at which point it should be distributed per stirpes as the amendment to the trust specifies. The appellate court disagreed finding that the terms of the trust amendment indicated that the 4% share immediately became the property of Agin upon Yergovich’s death.

The appellate court correctly disregarded the actions of the trust in Yergovich’s interest because the plain language of the trust indicated that it properly passed to Agin on the death of Yergovich.  Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the probate court’s decision.

In re Estate of Stephen Michael Agin, 2016 IL App (1st) 152362.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling probate litigation matters, civil jury trials and wrongful death cases for individuals and families for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Bridgeview, Chicago (Bridgeport, Canaryville, Hegewisch, Wicker Park, Rogers Park, Lincoln Square, Lincoln Park, Old Town), Long Grove, Elmwood Park, Palatine and Rosemont, Ill.

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