Estate of Greene

Estate of Greene, 2013 MT 174 (July 2, 2013) (5-0) (McGrath, C.J.)

Issue: Whether the district court properly denied William Greene’s motion to substitute the district judge.

Short Answer: Yes. The substitution statute’s 30-day deadline does not apply to an informal probate, and is not triggered until a party petitions to covert the proceeding to a court-supervised administration.


Facts: Lillian Greene died testate on June 22, 2012. Her will named her daughter Dawn PR. Dawn filed for informal probate and for appointment as PR; the clerk of court accepted the application and named Dawn PR. Dawn mailed a notice and information to heirs and devisees as required by statute. William Greene is Lillian’s son and a devisee.

Procedural Posture & Holding: On Nov. 19, 2012, William’s attorney filed a notice of appearance and moved to substitute the judge. Thereafter, William petitioned to convert the probate to a supervised administration. The district court denied the substitution as untimely on the grounds that William had 30 days from the date of the notice to heirs and devisees. William appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms, although on different grounds.

Reasoning: An informal probate is not an ordinary civil action, and § 3-1-804 does not apply. William’s motion was therefore premature. The 30-day deadline was triggered when William petitioned for supervised administration; however, William did not file a substitution motion within the 30 days after his petition. It was therefore untimely, and properly denied.