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Ex parte Baker

Supreme Court of Alabama

February 13, 2015

Ex parte Ruth Mary Higgins Baker
v.
Estate of Ruth G. Higgins, deceased In re: Ruth Mary Higgins Baker

         As Amended April 27, 2015.

          (Chilton Circuit Court, CV-12-59; Court of Civil Appeals, 2130240).

         For Petitioner: Jeffery C. Duffey, Effie Moore, Montgomery.

         For Respondent: Patrick E. Kennedy, Pelham.

         BOLIN, Justice. Stuart, Parker, Shaw, Main, and Bryan, JJ., concur. Moore, C.J., and Murdock, J., dissent.

          OPINION

Page 140

          PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CIVIL APPEALS

         BOLIN, Justice.

         Ruth Mary Higgins Baker (" Ruth" ) petitioned this Court for a writ of certiorari to review the Court of Civil Appeals' affirmance, without an opinion, of the judgment of the Chilton Circuit Court denying Ruth's petition seeking to be appointed the personal representative of the estate of her mother Ruth G. Higgins, deceased. Baker v. Estate of Higgins (No. 2130240, February 21, 2014), __ So.3d __ (Ala.Civ.App. 2014)(table). We granted certiorari review to determine whether the Court of Civil Appeals erred in affirming the circuit court's judgment and, specifically, whether the circuit court had obtained jurisdiction over Higgins's estate.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Ruth G. Higgins (" Higgins" ) died testate on February 1, 2012. She was survived by two daughters -- Ruth Mary Higgins Baker and Sallie Juliet Higgins. On April 4, 2012, Christopher G. Speaks, Higgins's nephew and the named personal representative in Higgins's will, petitioned the Probate Court of Chilton County to admit Higgins's will to probate. Subsequently, on April 27, 2012, Speaks filed in the probate court his " Notice to Decline Appointment as Personal Representative" stating that he was declining to serve as the personal representative of Higgins's estate; William Frances Speaks, Jr., the alternate personal representative named in Higgins's will, also declined to serve. On April 27, 2012, the probate court entered an order admitting Higgins's will to probate.

         On May 1, 2012, Linda L. Huebner[1] petitioned the probate court for letters of administration ad colligendum of Higgins's estate, alleging that Higgins had died " seized and possessed of certain personal estate ... which may be collected and preserved for those who shall appear to have a legal interest therein." The probate court entered an order on that same date granting Huebner letters of administration ad colligendum of Higgins's estate.

         On May 31, 2012, Ruth petitioned the probate court for appointment as administrator with the will annexed of Higgins's

Page 141

estate and for letters of administration cum testamento annexo (hereinafter referred to as " C.T.A." ).[2] Ruth alleged in her petition that the named personal representatives in Higgins's will declined to accept their appointment as personal representative; that the probate court had appointed Huebner as administrator ad colligendum; that the authority of the administrator ad colligendum to act on behalf of the estate is limited and the administrator ad colligendum is without the authority to administer the estate as one to whom letters of administration C.T.A. are issued; that there had been no issuance of letters of administration C.T.A.; and that Ruth was entitled to serve as the administrator with the will annexed of Higgins's estate pursuant to § 43-2-42(a)(2), Ala. Code 1975.

         On June 20, 2012, following a hearing, the probate court entered an order denying Ruth's petition for appointment as the administrator with the will annexed for Higgins's estate and dismissing the petition for letters of administration C.T.A. The probate court also confirmed in that order that Huebner would continue to serve as administrator ad colligendum of Higgins's estate.

         On August 6, 2012, Ruth petitioned the Chilton Circuit Court to remove the " administration" of Higgins's estate from the probate court to the circuit court. On August 8, 2012, the circuit court entered an order purporting to remove the administration of Higgins's estate from the probate court to the circuit court.

         On September 19, 2012, Ruth petitioned the circuit court for appointment as administrator of Higgins's estate and for issuance of letters of administration C.T.A., alleging the same grounds for appointment and issuance of letters of administration she had alleged in the probate court. On January 3, 2013, Sallie filed an answer to Ruth's petition for appointment as administrator of Higgins's estate and issuance of letters of administration C.T.A. Following an ore tenus proceeding, the circuit court, on August 29, 2013, entered an order denying Ruth's petition for appointment as administrator of Higgins's estate and for issuance of letters of administration C.T.A. Additionally, the circuit court appointed Huebner as the administrator with the will annexed of Higgins's estate and ordered the issuance of letters of administration C.T.A. Ruth appealed the circuit court's judgment to the Court of Civil Appeals. The Court of Civil Appeals ...


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