Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division
CYNTHIA C. HARRIS, Appellant,
ALICE DAVIS, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Melvin Harris, Deceased, CHASITY L. BOETTCHER, JANE M. McKNIGHT, KIMMIE L. HENSON, SALLY A. CARROLL, MELVIN L. HARRIS, and MARY S. KINNARD, Respondents.
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF PHELPS COUNTY Honorable Ronald D.
White & Honorable Kenneth G. Clayton, Judges.
E. SCOTT, P.J.
Harris appeals a probate judgment and order directing
distribution of estate property over her objections.
to sustain the probate division's judgment unless it is
not supported by substantial evidence, it is against the
weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies
the law. In re Hoffman, 23 S.W.3d 646, 648 (Mo.App.
2000). Because the procedural background is complex, we will
describe relevant facts and proceedings in the context of
various points raised on appeal.
about Appointment of Personal Representative (Points 1 &
Harris ("Decedent") lived on the farm where he was
raised and that was passed down to him from his father. His
wife Cynthia ("Wife") moved out of the marital home
in 2013 after Decedent was diagnosed with brain tumors.
Within months, Decedent required full-time care which his
daughter provided until he died in March 2015.
December 2015, Decedent's sister Anna Mae Edgar filed a
§ 473.097 small-estate case and timely presented
Decedent's will and codicil which later were admitted to
probate. In February 2016, Wife moved to
"convert" that small-estate case to full
administration. Wife also filed surviving-spouse claims
against which Decedent's heirs asserted the defense of
§ 474.140 abandonment. See Estate of Heil v.
Heil, 538 S.W.3d 382, 385 (Mo.App. 2018).
August 2016, the court held an evidentiary hearing on
abandonment, then concluded that it could not convert a
small-estate case and denied that motion without discussing
§ 474.140. On appeal in Harris I, we found that
Wife's motion to convert met all requirements for a
timely § 473.020 petition; thus we reversed and remanded
to open an estate and appoint an administrator.
remand, the probate division ordered full administration and
directed Ms. Edgar, whom Decedent's will named to serve
as personal representative, to apply for letters within 30
days. Ms. Edgar did so and was appointed to administer the
estate independently which she did until her June 2019 death
and replacement by Alice Davis as substitute administrator.
complains that the probate division lacked
authority to appoint Ms. Edgar because her
application for letters was, to quote Point 1, "more
than one year after the death of [Decedent], contrary to
Section 473.020, and there is no exception (equitable or
otherwise) to this deadline."
disagree. Harris I construed Wife's motion to
convert as a timely § 473.020 petition and remanded for
the probate division to open an estate and appoint an
administrator. This compelled the probate division, by
statute, to determine who should be directed to apply for
letters (§ 473.020.3, with Ms. Edgar being that person
per § 473.110.1) and issue appropriate orders including,
An order directing the person found by the court to be
entitled to the issuance of letters testamentary or of
administration to apply for and qualify for such letters
within such time as is allowed by the court, and in
default of such timely application and qualification, upon
application, the court shall issue ...