Estate of Gilbert, 080117 MESC, Wal-16-567

Docket Nº:Wal-16-567
Opinion Judge:GORMAN, J.
Party Name:ESTATE OF JOHN W. GILBERT
Attorney:David Glasser, Esq., Camden, for appellant Judith Gilbert Susan C. Thiem, Esq., Law Office of Susan C. Thiem, Lincolnville, for appellee Nathan Gilbert
Judge Panel:Panel: ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM, JJ.
Case Date:August 01, 2017
Court:Supreme Judicial Court of Maine
 
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2017 ME 175

ESTATE OF JOHN W. GILBERT

No. Wal-16-567

Supreme Court of Maine

August 1, 2017

Submitted On Briefs: July 19, 2017

David Glasser, Esq., Camden, for appellant Judith Gilbert

Susan C. Thiem, Esq., Law Office of Susan C. Thiem, Lincolnville, for appellee Nathan Gilbert

Panel: ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM, JJ.

GORMAN, J.

[¶l] Judith Gilbert, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of John W. Gilbert, appeals from a judgment of the Waldo County Probate Court (Longley, J.) approving, with a modification, the report of a referee for the distribution of the estate. Judith argues that the court erred by appointing a referee and adopting the report of the referee. We vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings.

I. BACKGROUND

[¶2] John W. Gilbert died on February 2, 2011. In 2012, Judith, John's wife, petitioned for informal probate of John's will and sought appointment as personal representative. Since then, Judith and one of John's sons from a previous relationship, Nathan A. Gilbert, have engaged in highly contentious and protracted litigation regarding the disposition of John's estate. See Estate of Gilbert, 2016 ME 92, ¶ 2, 142 A.3d 583. Eventually, the court appointed Judith as personal representative and declared that John died intestate. In addition, because the parties demonstrated their unwillingness or inability to agree on any aspect of the litigation, the court took the extraordinary step of ordering a "court-imposed, month-by-month, step-by-step court-supervised plan" for the administration of the estate. See id.; 18-A M.R.S. § 3-502 (2016).

[¶3] In 2014, the court appointed a referee to "propose a plan of distribution." Eight months later, the referee submitted a report in which he inventoried and valued the property of the estate; calculated the debts of the estate, including liens against the real property; stated which heir should receive which items of personal property; identified the exemptions and the amount of the exemptions to which Judith was entitled; and concluded that the real property "must be sold to pay the debts of [the] estate." Before submitting his report, the referee had not conducted a hearing, admitted any evidence, or met with the parties.

[¶4] Judith objected to the report on several grounds, including the referee's failure to comply with 14 M.R.S. § 1153 (2016).1 The court neither considered those objections nor acted on the report itself, but instead issued a decision in July of 2015 requiring Judith to sell the property of the estate consistent with the referee's suggestion. Estate of Gilbert, 2016 ME 92, ¶¶ 4, 6, 142 A.3d 583. We vacated that decision in Judith's subsequent appeal, and we remanded the matter for the court to conduct a hearing on Judith's objections and then...

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