Estate of Kurth

Estate of Kurth, 2016 MT 188 (Aug. 9, 2016) (Cotter, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion in granting Barstis’s motion to amend, denying Puryers’ motion to amend, and concluding that Kurth died intestate; and (2) whether the district court erred in awarding costs to Barstis.

Short Answer: (1) No; and (2) no.


Facts: Paul Kurth died in January 2000 at age 82 in Missoula. He had never married and had no children. Before his death, he lived for several years with his niece and her husband, Sinda and Marty Puryer, in Kalispell. In February 1998, Marty hand wrote a document entitled the last will and testament of Paul Kurth. Marty claims that Kurth dictated the contents of the document to him and signed it in his presence and the presence of one other person.

The Puryers did not petition to probate Kurth’s will until March 2013. The will was challenged by Kurth’s nephew, Bruce Barstis. In February 2014, Barstis moved to amend his objection to add Sinda as a party and allege new counterclaims against the Puryers. The district court granted the motion. Puryers answered the counterclaims in January 2015, asserting for the first time that the time for formal probate had not expired under subsection (1)(d) of § 72-3-122 MCA. 

Procedural Posture & Holding: Puryers moved to amend the petition in April 2015 to add subsection (1)(d) as a defense. Barstis moved for partial summary judgment. The district court denied the motion to amend, although it addressed (1)(d) in its decision granting summary judgment for Barstis. The district court held that Kurth had died intestate. Puryers appeal, and the Supreme Court affirms. 

Reasoning: (1) Marty argued that § 72-3-122(1)(e) extended the time for probate; he did not refer to or rely on subsection (d) until two years after Puryers filed their original petition. The district court found no evidence of bad faith, intentional delay improper purpose, or prejudice in Bastis’s motion for leave to amend. Because Barstis moved to amend two weeks after new evidence came to light in Marty’s deposition, the motion was timely. Conversely, the district court found evidence of undue delay and undue prejudice as well as bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of Pruyers. It also concluded Barstis had conducted conducted discovery for more than two years premised on subsection (1)(e), and would be unduly prejudiced by a motion to amend to include subsection (1)(d).

(2) The district court correctly interpreted and applied § 72-12-206, MCA.