The trauma of losing a loved one as a result of negligence can be compounded when there is a dispute regarding who may be named personal representative of decedent’s estate.
The question is a crucial one because while multiple people may be dependents or have standing to collect on a wrongful death claim, only one person can file claim – and that’s the personal representative. This person must be named to this position before litigation can proceed.
Even then, it is not completely out of the ordinary for disputes to occur, as the recent case of Grant v. Wiley Sanders Trucking Lines, Inc., before the Alabama Supreme Court, reveals.
Our Montgomery wrongful death attorneys are knowledgeable in both tort and probate law, and can help you make a strong argument to secure a position as personal representative. Even if the court rejects this argument, we can help to ensure your rights and interests are protected throughout the process.
In the Grant case, a man was killed in a traffic accident in June 2003. Soon thereafter, his father petitioned the probate court for “letters of administration,” requesting to be named administrator of his deceased son’s estate. Within his request, he reportedly produced a waiver of consent to appointment granted by his son’s widow. With this, the court granted his appointment to personal representative of his son’s estate, and he soon thereafter filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a trucking company. He asserted the trucking company’s negligence proximately resulted in his son’s death.
Three months later, decedent’s widow filed a motion to intervene, asserting the appointment was secured through fraud and asked the court to void the father’s appointment as administrator of his son’s estate. She also requested a stay on the wrongful death case pending resolution of this issue. The father opposed both actions.
The court conducted a hearing, and ruled the father was wrongfully appointed to the position of personal representative of the estate. The previous appointment was voided, the lawsuit stayed and decedent’s widow appointed as administrator of his estate.
Father’s motion to reconsider was denied, prompting him to request a review from the Alabama Supreme Court in the form of a writ of mandamus. The basis of the request was a technicality – the initiation of estate administration occurred in Lowndes. Therefore, the Montgomery Circuit Court, where widow made her request, lacked subject matter jurisdiction on the issue of administration.
The state high court agreed. While widow has requested a transfer of the case from Montgomery to Lowndes, that is still pending. However, the Montgomery Circuit Court ruling will not be recognized – except in so far as the stay of the wrongful death action, which was filed in that court.
It’s likely the widow will be granted the right to act as personal administrator of her deceased husband’s estate, but it will have to be done in the proper jurisdiction.
Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.
Grant v. Wiley Sanders Trucking Lines, Inc., Dec. 12, 2014, Alabama Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Peterson-Tuell v. First Student Transp. – Prior Health History Relevant to Determine Damages, Dec. 2, 2014, Montgomery Wrongful Death Lawyer Blog