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In re Estate of Gsantner

Supreme Court of Nebraska

May 23, 2014

IN RE ESTATE OF JACK H. GSANTNER, DECEASED.
v.
KEVIN J. GUSTAFSON ET AL., APPELLEES RYAN GRAY, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF JACK H. GSANTNER, DECEASED, APPELLANT,

Page 647

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 648

Appeal from the County Court for Douglas County: LAWRENCE E. BARRETT, Judge.

AFFIRMED.

Andrew C. Sigerson and Lyndsay N. Bonwell, of Andrew C. Sigerson, P.C., L.L.O., for appellant.

Dean F. Suing and David A. Castello, of Katskee, Henatsch & Suing, for appellees.

HEAVICAN, C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, STEPHAN, MCCORMACK, MILLER-LERMAN, and CASSEL, JJ.

OPINION

Page 649

[288 Neb. 223] Wright, J.

NATURE OF CASE

Ryan Gray, personal representative of the estate of Jack H. Gsantner, appeals from the orders of the county court awarding him a fee of $25,000 and overruling his motion to alter or amend the award. Finding no error on the record, we affirm the award of a personal representative fee of $25,000.

SCOPE OF REVIEW

Jurisdictional questions that do not involve a factual dispute present questions of law. Pinnacle Enters. v. City of Papillion, 286 Neb. 322, 836 N.W.2d 588 (2013).

Appeals of matters arising under the Nebraska Probate Code are reviewed for error on the record. See In re Estate of Failla, 278 Neb. 770, 773 N.W.2d 793 (2009). When reviewing a judgment for errors appearing on the record, an appellate court's inquiry is whether the decision conforms to the law, is supported bye competent evidence, and is neither arbitrary, capricious, nor unreasonable. Krings v. Garfield Cty. Bd. of Equal., 286 Neb. 352, 835 N.W.2d 750 (2013).

FACTS

Gsantner died in February 2012. He was survived by neither a spouse nor children. His funeral services were provided by an Omaha, Nebraska, mortuary, of which Gray is the managing officer. Several months after the funeral, the estate owed $3,120.55 in funeral expenses.

[288 Neb. 224] As a creditor of Gsantner's estate, the mortuary sought appointment of Gray as personal representative in intestacy. In April 2012, he was informally appointed to serve in that capacity. In November, the county court entered an order of intestacy and formally appointed Gray as personal representative of the estate.

At the time of Gray's informal appointment, the value of the estate was estimated to be $127,400. Following Gray's informal appointment, he discovered the estate had extensive assets that were previously unknown to him. Gray also learned that Gsantner had executed a will. The final value of the estate was $5,180,514.23.

In December 2012, Gray filed a petition for formal probate of the will, determination of heirs, tentative determination of the inheritance tax, partial distribution of the estate, and payment of attorney fees and the personal representative fee. He submitted a request for fees in the amount of 5 percent of the gross estate, to be distributed equally between attorney fees and the personal representative fee. Five heirs of the estate (appellees) objected to Gray's request for fees as " excessive and unwarranted" under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-2480 (Reissue 2008). At appellees' request, the county court scheduled an evidentiary hearing to determine reasonable fees.

After the evidentiary hearing was scheduled but before it took place, appellees recommended a partial award of the personal representative fee in the amount of $17,500, " without prejudice" to the ...


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