In re Mable, C. A. 2020-0089-PWG

CourtCourt of Chancery of Delaware
Writing for the CourtPatricia W. Griffin, Master in Chancery
PartiesIn re Estate of Wilbert Octavis Mable, Sr.
Docket NumberC. A. 2020-0089-PWG
Decision Date10 June 2022

In re Estate of Wilbert Octavis Mable, Sr.

C. A. No. 2020-0089-PWG

Court of Chancery of Delaware

June 10, 2022


Date Submitted: May 16, 2022

Michael F. McGroerty, Esquire

Law Office of Michael F. McGroerty, P.A.

Dear Counsel and Parties:

Pending before me is a matter in which a beneficiary of an estate seeks removal of the estate's personal representative and appointment as the successor personal representative. While this matter was being litigated, the personal representative filed a notice with the New Castle County Register of Wills of her intent to resign as personal representative of the estate. On April 12, 2022, I asked the parties to submit status reports regarding the status of this matter in light of developments with the Register of Wills. Only the beneficiary responded to this

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request, arguing that the Court should decide in the first instance who should be appointed as successor personal representative. In this report, I reject the beneficiary's argument and stay proceedings in this matter until the Register of Wills acts on pending petitions before it. This is a final report.

I. Background

Wilbert Octavis Mable, Sr. ("Decedent") passed away on July 23, 2015.[1]Catrina Aikens ("Aikens") filed a Petition for Authority to Act as Personal Representative with the New Castle County Register of Wills ("Register") on January 26, 2015.[2] Asia Mable ("Asia"), Joe Ann Mable, and Wileysha Mable ("Wileysha") filed renunciations of the right and power of administration of Decedent's estate with Aikens' petition.[3] On January 29, 2016, the Register appointed Aikens as personal representative of the Estate of Wilbert Octavis Mable, Sr. ("Estate").[4] On March 19, 2019, after a period of inaction, the Register ordered that it would take no further action on the case, and would not set up a rule to show cause proceeding to seek removal of Aikens as personal representative.[5]

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On February 13, 2020, Wileysha filed a Petition for Authority to Act as Personal Representative ("ROW Petition").[6] Also on February 13, 2020, Wileysha filed the Petition to Remove Administratrix and Appoint New Administration ("Chancery Petition") with this Court, naming Aikens as respondent in her capacity as personal representative of the Estate and asking the Court to remove Aikens for failure to administer the Estate.[7] On March 31, 2020, Wileysha moved for default judgment.[8] On May 21, 2020, Aikens filed a claim against the Estate with the Register in the amount of $49, 850.00.[9] By letter dated July 7, 2020, Aikens responded to the motion for default judgment, arguing that Wileysha and some of her siblings were not the Decedent's biological children.[10] At a hearing on September 10, 2020, I denied the motion for default judgment and ordered that an evidentiary hearing would be scheduled to resolve the various claims raised, including whether Wileysha's prior renunciation was void or revoked.[11]

The matter in this Court proceeded to discovery and discovery disputes.[12]On or before March 7, 2022, Aikens contacted the Register and announced her

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intent to resign as personal representative of the Estate.[13] On March 22, 2022, Aikens filed with the Register her request to resign as personal representative of the Estate.[14] Also on March 22, 2022, Asia filed a letter with the Register asking to be appointed as successor personal representative.[15] On March 28, 2022, the Register requested that Wileysha respond to the letters filed by Aikens and Asia.[16]

The parties also filed letters with this Court about these developments. On March 25, 2022, Asia filed a letter requesting DNA testing of certain parties.[17] On March 29, 2022, Aikens filed a letter noting that she had submitted a resignation to the Register and contending that she should not be responsible for Wileysha's attorneys fees.[18] On March 31, 2022, Wileysha filed a letter, taking issue with transactions that occurred under Aikens' administration of the Estate.[19] On April 5, 2022, Wileysha filed another letter, indicating that certain parties have filed a petition to adjudicate paternity in the Family Court.[20]

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On April 12, 2022, I sent a letter to the parties requesting status reports and their positions on what remained before this Court in light of Aikens' actual or purported resignation as personal representative of the Estate.[21] On May 12, 2022, Wileysha filed a letter with this Court, arguing that there are still issues for the Court to adjudicate under the Chancery Petition.[22] On May 11, 2022, Wileysha filed a letter with the Register, asking the Register to adjudicate the ROW Petition.[23] On May 16, 2022, Wileysha filed another letter with this Court, arguing that Court of Chancery Rule 207 allows the Court to adjudicate any petition related to an estate matter.[24]

II. Analysis

The Chancery Petition seeks only two actions for relief: (1) removing Aikens as personal representative of the Estate and (2) directing the Register to appoint Wileysha as personal representative of the Estate.[25] There are no other pleadings in this matter. Aikens has voluntarily purported to resign as the personal representative of the Estate.[26] Thus, at least part of the Chancery Petition is no longer a live controversy because Aikens has voluntarily requested to resign. The

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issue before me is whether the Court may act to appoint Wileysha as successor personal representative or whether the Register must act in the first instance.

The Chancery Petition was filed under 12 Delaware Code § 1541, [27] which states in relevant part, "If an executor or administrator neglects official duties, the Court of Chancery may...

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