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In re Estate of Chambers

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

July 16, 2019

In re Estate of Deena Chambers, deceased.
State of Nebraska, appellee. Kent A. Chambers, Personal Representative of the Estate of Deena Chambers, deceased, appellant,

         1. Decedents' Estates: Taxation: Appeal and Error. On appeal of an inheritance tax determination, an appellate court reviews the case for error appearing on the record.

         2. Judgments: Appeal and Error. When reviewing a judgment for errors appearing on the record, the inquiry is whether the decision conforms to the law, is supported by competent evidence, and is neither arbitrary, capricious, nor unreasonable.

         3. Decedents' Estates: Parent and Child: Taxation: Appeal and Error. Factual findings necessary in determining whether the requisite acknowledged parent-child relationship of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 77-2004 (Reissue 2018) exists should be reviewed for sufficient evidence and should not be disturbed on appeal unless clearly wrong.

         4. Statutes: Words and Phrases. As a general rule, the word "shall" in a statute is considered mandatory and is inconsistent with the idea of discretion.

         5.__:__. The word "may" when used in a statute will be given its ordinary, permissive, and discretionary meaning unless it would manifestly defeat the statutory objective.

         6. Decedents' Estates: Taxation: Statutes: Proof. Statutes exempting property from inheritance tax should be strictly construed, and the burden is on the taxpayer to show that he or she clearly falls within the language of the statute.

         7. Decedents' Estates: Parent and Child: Taxation. The following factors serve as appropriate guideposts to the trial court in making a determination of an acknowledged relationship of a parent under Neb. Rev. [27 Neb.App. 399] Stat. § 77-2004 (Reissue 2018): (1) reception of the child into the home and treatment of the child as a member of the family, (2) assumption of the responsibility for support beyond occasional gifts and financial aid, (3) exercise of parental authority and discipline, (4) relationship by blood or marriage, (5) advice and guidance to the child, (6) sharing of time and affection, and (7) existence of written documentation evincing the decedent's intent to act as parent.

         8. Judicial Notice: Records. Papers requested to be judicially noticed must be marked, identified, and made a part of the record.

         9. Pleadings: Proof. Pleadings alone are not proof but mere allegations of what the parties expect the evidence to show.

          Appeal from the County Court for Furnas County: Anne M. Paine, Judge.

          Jon S. Schroeder and Whitney S. Lindstedt, of Schroeder & Schroeder, PC, for appellant.

         No appearance for appellee.

          Moore, Chief Judge, and Pirtle and Bishop, Judges.

          PER CURIAM.


         Kent A. Chambers, personal representative of the estate of Deena Chambers, deceased, appeals from the determination by the county court for Furnas County that Anthony K. Chambers, as an individual beneficiary, did not qualify for preferential inheritance tax treatment under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 77-2004 (Reissue 2018). The court found that Kent failed to prove the decedent stood in the acknowledged relation of a parent to Anthony. Because the county court's factual determination was not clearly wrong, we affirm.


         Deena died testate in January 2018. Deena was a resident of Furnas County, Nebraska, and she was survived by Kent, her husband. Kent and Deena were married for a little over [27 Neb.App. 400] 30 years and have no biological children. One of the devisees in Deena's will was Kent's nephew, Anthony, who was born in 1975 to Kent's brother and the brother's then-wife. A copy of Deena's signed, January 2009 will was filed in the county court in February 2018. In the 2009 will, Anthony is named as alternate personal representative and alternate trustee for all trusts established by the will and is the residuary beneficiary of the will.

         In March 2018, Kent, as personal representative, filed an inventory for Deena's estate in the county court. On June 12, he filed a petition for determination of inheritance tax, along with an inheritance tax worksheet, voluntary appearance, and waiver of notice. Kent asked the court to "dispense with giving of any further notice as provided by law; and upon hearing, without delay," determine the value of Deena's assets and the amount of inheritance tax. On the inheritance tax computation portion of the worksheet, Anthony's designated "Beneficiary Relationship" was "Like a Child." The Furnas County Attorney signed the worksheet on May 25, under the printed paragraph stating:

I, the undersigned . . . County Attorney, hereby enter my voluntary appearance ... in the above captioned proceeding and waive the service of notice upon me to show just cause, and furthermore waive all notice required by law of time and place of hearing for the determination of values of property for inheritance tax purposes and for the purpose of assessing inheritance tax .... I have examined the foregoing Worksheet and have no objections thereto for inheritance tax purposes only.

         On June 22, 2018, Kent filed with the county court an affidavit from Anthony, detailing Deena and Anthony's relationship. Attached to the affidavit as an exhibit was a copy of an unsigned draft of a February 2013 last will and testament of Deena, naming Anthony as one of the beneficiaries. Anthony is identified at three points in ...

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