Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division
IN THE ESTATE OF MARGARET C. FREEBAIRN, Incapacitated
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis.
0922-PR00659. Honorable Philip Heagney.
APPELLANT: Canice Timothy Rice, Jr., St. Louis, MO.
CONSERVATOR: John T. Ahlquist, LAW OFFICE OF JOHN T. ALQUIST,
St. Louis, MO.
Margaret and Gay Norris, RESPONDENT: Alex Mark Kanter,
the Estate of: Margaret C. Freebairn, RESPONDENT: Marc S.
Kramer, St. Louis, MO.
HOFF, Judge. Robert G. Dowd, Jr., Presiding Judge concurs and
Roy L. Richter, Judge, dissents in separate opinion.
Elizabeth St. John (Appellant), the daughter of Margaret C.
Freebairn (Ward), appeals from the probate court's,
division of the circuit court, (probate court) entry of
judgment dismissing her petition seeking the removal of the
Ward's guardians, Gay Norris and Margaret Norris, Ph.D.,
who are the nieces of the Ward, (collectively referred to as
Respondents). We dismiss the appeal.
and Procedural Background
September 2009, a petition for the appointment of a guardian
and a conservator was filed on behalf of the Ward. The
probate court found that an emergency existed that presented
a substantial risk that serious physical harm would occur to
the Ward and irreparable damage would occur to the Ward's
property, which needed
protection from loss or waste. Accordingly, the probate court
appointed a temporary guardian and a conservator for the
January 2010, an amended petition for the appointment of a
guardian and a conservator was filed on behalf of the Ward.
In February 2010, the probate court entered its judgment
finding that the Ward was unable to care for herself and her
financial resources. The probate court found that the
Respondents were suitable and qualified to serve as
co-guardians of the Ward and that John T. Ahlquist was
suitable and qualified to serve as conservator of the
Ward's estate. The probate court also found that the
Ward's condition required her placement in a "
supervised type of living situation" and that the Ward
was " totally incapacitated and totally disabled as
defined in Section 475.010." The probate court
subsequently ratified the expenditure of funds from the
Ward's estate for the support and maintenance of the
Ward. The probate court also authorized that attorney's
fees for representation of the Ward were necessary and
reasonable expenses related to the Ward's physical and
mental well being and the preservation of her estate and were
to be paid by the estate.
April 2010, a petition was filed for the sale of the
Ward's property. The probate court authorized the sale of
the Ward's tangible personal property at a value in
excess of its appraised value and the sale of the Ward's
home for a price no less than three-fourths of its appraised
value. The probate court authorized the sale of the
Ward's tangible personal property to Appellant, the
Ward's daughter, and authorized the sale of the
Ward's home to a private buyer. Between April 2010 and
November 2010, the probate court authorized the payment of
attorneys' fees and other reasonable expenses related to
the administration of the Ward's estate. In November
2010, the probate court authorized the Ward's estate to
abandon certain personal property, namely a car, as valueless
and as a burden on the Ward's estate if it were retained.
In January 2011, the probate court established an irrevocable
special needs trust on behalf of the Ward to ensure the
payment for the Ward's care.
2011, Appellant filed a petition to remove Respondents as the
Ward's coguardians and for appointment of a successor
guardian. Appellant alleged that Respondents should be
removed as co-guardians because they had placed unreasonable
and arbitrary restrictions upon Appellant's visits with
the Ward. Appellant also alleged that the Ward's estate
contained no assets.
subsequently filed a motion to dismiss Appellant's
petition on the ground that Appellant did not have standing
to bring the action for removal of the Ward's
co-guardians because Appellant was not an " interested
person" as defined by Section 472.010(15). The probate
court called and heard arguments on Respondents' motion
to dismiss Appellant's petition. The probate court later
entered its judgment granting Respondents' motion,
finding that Appellant was not an " interested
person" as defined by the statute and, therefore, lacked
standing to proceed. This appeal followed.
sole point on appeal, Appellant claims the probate court
erred in granting Respondents' motion to dismiss her
petition to remove Respondents as the Ward's co-guardians
because Appellant does have standing in that Appellant, as a
child of the Ward with a natural interest in
the Ward's welfare, is an " interested person"
for the purpose of seeking the removal of Respondents as
Determining whether a party has standing to appeal is a
threshold issue that we review de novo. In re
R.C.H., 419 S.W.3d 158, 160 (Mo. App. E.D. 2013);
Estate of Whittaker, 261 S.W.3d 615, 617 (Mo. App.
E.D. 2008). " When a party lacks standing, a court has
no jurisdiction to grant the relief requested[,] and the case
must be dismissed." Whittaker, 261 S.W.3d at
617. " The right to appeal from a probate court's
judgment is purely statutory, and the applicable statutes are
to be liberally construed since the law favors the right to
appeal." In re Estate of Juppier, 81 S.W.3d
699, 700 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002).
The guardianship statute provides for the applicability of
the probate code to guardianship actions."
R.C.H., 419 S.W.3d at 160. " 'It also
allows for substitution of title description and equates
guardianships to decedents' estates unless there exists
an inconsistent provision in the guardianship
code.'" R.C.H., 419 S.W.3d at 160, quoting
Juppier, 81 S.W.3d at 701.
Chapter 475 is the probate code on Guardianship. Under the
definitions provided in Chapter 475, a " ward" is a
minor or incapacitated person for whom a guardian, limited
guardian, or standby guardian has been appointed; a "
protectee" is a person for whose estate a conservator or
limited conservator has been appointed or with respect to
whose estate a transaction has been authorized by the court