Matter of the Estate of Engellant

Matter of the Estate of Engellant, 2017 MT 100 (May 2, 2017) (McGrath, C.J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the District Court erred in granting summary judgment to Kenneth and dismissing the petition for lack of standing.

Short Answer: Yes.

Reversed and remanded

Facts: Petitioners Daren and Kevin Engellant are the sons of Respondent Kenneth Engellant, and nephews of Gregory Engellant. Gregory was permanently disabled in 1982, and Kenneth has been the appointed conservator since 1985. Gregory executed a will in 1978, before his accident, and a second will in 2012. Daren and Kevin and devisees under both wills.

Daren and Kevin complained to Montana Adult Protective Services that Kenneth was improperly administering the conservatorship estate. APS filed an action to remove Kenneth as conservator, but the action was dismissed by stipulation. Daren and Kevin filed this action to remove their father as conservator for Gregory.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Kenneth moved for summary judgment on the grounds that his sons lacked standing. The district court granted the motion. Daren and Kevin appeal, and the Supreme Court reverses.

Reasoning: The district court concluded that Daren and Kevin were not “persons interested in the welfare of a protected person” under § 72-5-413(4), MCA, and could not rely upon the “interested person” definition in § 72-1-103(25), MCA, because their expectancy interests as devisees was insufficient to grant them standing.

Applying plain-language statutory interpretation rules, the Court concludes that the definition of “interested person” in § 72-1-103(25), MCA, includes Daren and Kevin based on their status as devisees.

The Court further disagrees with the district court’s conclusion that § 72-5-413(4), MCA, defines the exclusive class of persons entitled to bring a petition for an order after appointment. The language in §§ 72-1-103 and 72-5-413, MCA, evidences an intent to provide a more expansive definition of who may bring a petition under § 72-5-413, MCA.