Articles Posted in Illinois Probate Act

The Estate of Lucille Rigoli sued the owners and operators of a nursing home for negligently causing her wrongful death and suffering before her death. She died on May 10, 2016. The court appointed Michael Rigoli to serve as independent executor of her estate.

On March 13, 2018, Rigoli, as executor, filed a complaint against ManorCare of Oak Lawn (West) and Heartland Employment Services, alleging that they chose not to provide adequate medical care to Lucille Rigoli and thus their decisions led to her fall and the fracture of her hip on March 15, 2016. The lawsuit included separate counts against each defendant for wrongful death and for the pain she suffered before her death under the Probate Act of 1975 (755 ILCS 5/27-6, commonly known as the Survival Act).

The Survival Act of Illinois is found in the Probate Act. Section 27-6 (Actions which survive) states that  in addition to the actions which survive by the common law, the following also survive: …actions to recover damages for an injury to the person(except slander and libel), actions to recover damages for an injury to real or personal property.

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In this case, the plaintiff, Merton Messmore, brought a wrongful-death claim against the nursing home in Silvis, Ill., which is about 161 miles west of Chicago. Messmore’s wife, Mary, died after she allegedly fell.

The Illinois Appellate Court called this case “a unique situation” about a stay under Section 2(d) of the Uniform Arbitration Act because the survival claims Messmore filed on behalf of Mary’s estate “are subject to arbitration, his wrongful-death claim is not, and he bases all three claims on the same factual allegations.”

Messmore wanted to proceed in the circuit court but discovery on the wrongful-death claim included taking his evidence deposition (Messmore is at least 90.) without having to wait for arbitration of the survival claims. The defendants, Silvis Operations d/b/a Lighthouse of Silvis and one of its nurses, argued that Section 2(d) required the trial judge to stay all three claims.

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The Illinois Probate Act was recently amended to include a new section entitled, “Presumptively Void Transfers.” 755 ILCS 5/4(a) et seq. The effective date of the statute was Jan. 1, 2015. The intended purpose of the legislation was to prevent unrelated caregivers from taking advantage of elderly or disabled persons in their making testamentary gifts under duress or under less than forthright circumstances.

In essence, the new statute states that if a “transfer instrument” is challenged by a court proceeding, there is a rebuttable presumption that the transfer instrument is void if the transferee is a “caregiver” and the transfer exceeds $20,000. 755 ILCS 5/4(a)-10(a).

According to the statute, once the presumption is in place, it can be rebutted by the caregiver in two ways:

(1) The caregiver, beneficiary, proves by clear and convincing evidence that the transfer was not the product of fraud, duress or undue influence; or

(2) By showing that the beneficiary’s share under the transfer instrument is not greater than the beneficiary’s share already in the effect prior to becoming a caregiver. 755 ILCS 5/4(a)-1(15)(2) and 10(a).

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